2012 - %3, November

Will Darkened Polling Stations Impact Key Vote in Pennsylvania?

| Sat Nov. 3, 2012 1:08 PM EDT

Hurricane Sandy left large swaths of Pennsylvania without power this week, and heading into Tuesday's election as many as 300 polling stations were still in the dark on Friday afternoon. Many of those stations are reportedly in critical Bucks County. Once a Republican stronghold, the county went for Obama in 2008, and it has become increasingly Democratic. But in an indication of its key role in the election, GOP challenger Mitt Romney has decided to make a last-minute visit to Bucks County on Sunday, suggesting that he believes he can possibly win the rich trove of electoral college votes of a state long considered solidly blue. To win Pennsylvania, Romney has to win Bucks County.

News of Romney's visit—and the $12 million worth of ads that the GOP has aired in the state in the past several days—comes at a time when many people in the county have remained without power, as many as 50,000 as of Friday afternoon. There've been varying reports about the number of polling stations that are affected and vague plans from elections officials as to how they'll handle those outages come Tuesday. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has made restoring power to voting precincts a high priority behind hospitals and other critical infrastrure. The state has extended absentee ballot deadlines in many places, including Bucks County, to give voters more time. And state officials have said they don't expect any voting problems: Voting machines apparently can run on batteries for at least a few hours, and FEMA has reportedly offered to supply generators to run voting machines.

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What Would "President Romney" Mean for Food and Agriculture?

| Sat Nov. 3, 2012 6:03 AM EDT

The election-handicapping guru Nate Silver reckons President Obama's prospects for victory at about 80 percent. Four-to-one odds might sound like a sure thing—but would you think so in a game of Russian roulette? In other words, there is a non-trivial possibility that people will soon be addressing Mitt Romney as "Mr. President." What would a Romney/Ryan administration likely mean for food and agriculture policy?

1) Regulations, beware. When Obama was running for office in 2008, he promised to crack down on the worst environmental and social abuses of industrial-scale farming. His record, though, has been mixed at best. Under a President Romney, even the pretense of regulating Big Ag is out the window.

The Romney campaign called its October 2012 white paper on ag policy "Agricultural Prosperity: Mitt Romney’s Vision For A Vibrant Rural America." A more accurate title might have been, "Feeling Over-Regulated? I'll Fix That." In it, he promises to "freeze and review new, pending, and proposed agriculture regulations, and eliminate those that are duplicative, ineffective, or not economically justifiable"; to require Congress to "approve all new major regulations proposed by federal agencies, returning responsibility for important decisions to our elected representatives"; and "impose a regulatory cap that forces agencies to spend as much time repealing and streamlining old regulations as they spend advancing new ones."

Among the regulatory efforts that would likely be blocked under such a regime is the FDA's tentative, voluntary proposed plan to reduce routine antibiotic use on livestock farms. Tentative and voluntary beats little or nothing, and that's what Romney is promising on the regulatory front.

Voting Problem? Report It to Mother Jones.

| Sat Nov. 3, 2012 6:03 AM EDT

Help us track voter suppression and poll problems around the country—report your problem using the short form below.

Also see our guide to voting hotspots and shenanigans, including our interactive map, updating now through Election Day.

What Would a Romney Victory Mean for the Environment?

| Sat Nov. 3, 2012 6:03 AM EDT

When it comes to the planet, it's hard to get a great sense of what Mitt Romney would actually do as president. His campaign website includes a long list of issues—Puerto Rico, Medicare, Values—but environment doesn't merit its own section. Anything on the subject is buried under energy, where he promises to make the US an "energy superpower" and calls the Obama administration's green energy policies "nothing short of a disaster."

1. States would oversee fossil fuel development on federal lands. Romney's campaign has promised that as part of his plan to "dramatically increase domestic energy production," states "will be empowered to control all forms of energy production on all lands within their borders, excluding only those that are specifically designated off-limits." That could include some national parks.

2. Regulations would be weakened. Romney has pledged to "take a weed whacker" to federal environmental regulations. His plan lacks specifics, but calls for "streamlining" environmental review periods for energy development plans and "allowing state reviews to satisfy federal requirements." (See Nos. 3 and 6 for more.)

3. Coal companies would get to do pretty much whatever they want. Romney has accused the Obama administration of waging a "war on coal," and has pledged to reverse many of the administration's regulations. As president, he would likely approve the most extreme anti-environmental bills offered in Congress—like the "Stop the War on Coal Act," passed in September. The bill was a grab bag for coal interests, taking away the EPA's ability to regulate mountaintop-removal coal mining, greenhouse gas emissions, coal ash disposal, mercury and air toxins."I like coal," Romney said at the October 3 debate. "I'm going to make sure we’re going to be able to burn clean coal." However, he has offered few specifics on what he would do to make coal "clean" as president. 

4. He would open new areas to drilling. Romney has pledged to open new areas to drilling off the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He also wants to ramp up drilling in already-available areas.

5. The Keystone XL pipeline will be approved. Romney has said he would approve this massive proposed pipeline running from Canada to Texas "on day one."

6. Greenhouse gas emission regulations would be halted. Romney now treats climate change as a punchline, despite the fact that he at least pretended to care about it as governor of Massachusetts. Thus, he doesn't see a reason that the EPA should be regulating carbon dioxide emissions at all. "I exhale carbon dioxide," he joked at an event last November. "I don't want those guys following me around with a meter to see if I'm breathing too hard."

7. Say good-bye to new fuel-economy rules. Romney has pledged to throw out the new miles-per-gallon standards for cars and light trucks set by the Obama administration. "Gov. Romney opposes the extreme standards that President Obama has imposed, which will limit the choices available to American families," according to his spokeswoman.

8. No more clean-energy loans. Romney has regularly attacked the Obama administration's tax breaks and loans for the clean-energy industry, particularly the loan to now-bankrupt solar company Solyndra. He says he will end support for electric vehicle companies and clean-tech companies as president.

What Would a Romney Victory Mean for Reproductive Rights?

| Sat Nov. 3, 2012 6:03 AM EDT

With Election Day now upon us, it's worth weighing the impacts of a Mitt Romney win on reproductive rights and health care. In general, Romney seems likely to cater to the extreme anti-choice faction of his party. Here's a sneak preview of possible scenarios:

1. The Supreme Court gets more anti-choice. All of the abortion-related decisions on the court in recent history have been a 5-4 (or 4-5) split, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. The court has four justices in their 70s right now, which means that the next president could have one or more opportunities to appoint new members. Romney has made it clear that he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and would appoint federal judges and Supreme Court justices that feel that way, too. Even if those appointees don't get to throw out Roe (at least, not right away), they could still make important decisions on state laws currently caught up in the court system, like laws requiring a sonogram before an abortion and other laws that ban abortions after 20 weeks. A Supreme Court ruling upholding those laws could set new precedents for the burdens states are allowed to impose on women seeking an abortion.

2. Planned Parenthood loses federal funding. One of the first things a new president gets to do is write a budget, and Romney has pledged to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood providers immediately. "It will not be part of my budget," he has said. And it's not just Planned Parenthood. A Romney-Ryan administration would take away Title X family planning funds from any health care provider that also provides abortions.

3. Health care reform gets overturned. Romney says he wants to toss out "Obamacare"—except for the parts that people like, such as making it illegal to deny coverage to someone because of a preexisting condition. The problem is, the parts Romney doesn't like are required to make the other parts work. There are a lot of provisions in health care reform that are particularly helpful for women. For one, I've known women who were told that heavy periods or cramps qualified as a "pre-existing condition," which the reform bill would outlaw. More broadly, under Obamacare, insurance companies can no longer charge you more just because you're a woman—a practice known as "gender rating." Birth control and other preventative care are now available without a co-payment. You can stay on your parents' health care until you're 26, which is particularly useful for women, who go to the doctor more often than men.

4. There's no more co-pay-free birth control. Even if Romney doesn't succeed in overturning health care reform, he has singled out the requirement that insurers cover contraception as an "assault on religion" that "will end" if he becomes president. Paul Ryan has promised that the birth control mandate "will be gone" on "day one" of their administration.

5. There are stricter limits on federal funding for abortions. Last year, GOP House members—including Paul Ryan—tried to pass a law that would have redefined rape as only including "forcible rape"—which would likely exclude statutory rape and possibly date/drugged/drunk rape. This is important, because federal laws dealing with the use of government funds for abortions have typically included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act also includes other new limits, like barring tax credits for employers who choose to offer a health plan that covers abortion and making it illegal to use your own tax-exempt health savings account to pay for an abortion.

6. The Global Gag Rule returns. Romney has said he will reinstate this rule, also known as the "Mexico City Policy," that bars any US-funded organization working abroad not only from providing abortions, but from offering referrals or even discussing abortion as an option.

7. Parental consent laws are federalized. In 2005, 2007, and 2011, Paul Ryan cosponsored the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, a bill that would make it illegal to take a minor to another state to avoid parental notification and consent laws for an abortion in her home state. Under the bill, a minor's parents must be notified in writing at least 24 hours before she can have an abortion.

8. Hospitals are allowed to deny women access to abortion, even if their lives are in danger. Under current law, any hospital accepting Medicare or Medicaid and affiliated with a religious institution that refuses to provide abortion care under any circumstance is legally required to transfer a woman who needs a live-saving abortion to a hospital that will. But last year, the House passed another bill that Ryan cosponsored, the Protect Life Act, which, if passed, would allow hospitals to refuse to "participate in" or "provide referrals" for abortions.


Corn on Hardball: The Last Days of the Election

Fri Nov. 2, 2012 8:51 PM EDT

The election's winding down, and things are looking good for Obama. Should he be sitting pretty? Our DC bureau chief David Corn look back on the campaign with Joy Reid and Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

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VIDEO: With or Without FEMA, Staten Island Sifts Through the Rubble

| Fri Nov. 2, 2012 6:46 PM EDT

One of the first confirmed victims of Hurricane Sandy was Angela Dresch, 13, who was killed Monday night by a massive storm surge that swept through her home just behind the beach in Tottenville, Staten Island. All told, Staten Island saw more deaths than any other borough, and took some of the storm's worst beatings. With destroyed houses and a rising body count, residents here say they felt ignored by FEMA and the Red Cross, despite desperately wanting and needing their help.

By Friday morning, FEMA officials were in Tottenville, helping residents apply for disaster compensation. But they were already behind the Tottenville community itself, which had rolled out scores of volunteers armed with shovels and wheelbarrows (and a boatload of doughnuts) to help those who lost their homes sort through the rubble.

"Flight": Denzel Washington Drunkenly Flies a Plane Upside Down, And It's Glorious

| Fri Nov. 2, 2012 6:40 PM EDT

Flight
Paramount Pictures
138 minutes

Going off of the trailer (embedded below)—and Denzel Washington's recent output—you can't be blamed for expecting Flight to be decidedly low-brow.

Given the available evidence, I was looking forward to a film in which an elegantly cocaine-impaired Denzel Washington flies a burning plane upside down while telling panicking passengers to "BE COOL!" for a solid two hours. (Maybe there'd be East German terrorists thrown into the mix in some way.) After all, American audiences have in recent years been fed a steady diet of Denzel Washington movies in which he efficiently dispatches one-dimensional henchmen and/or deals with imperiled trains barreling down the corridors of Tony Scott's imagination.

Scott Walker: The GOP's Recall Turnout Machine Will Deliver Wisconsin for Romney

| Fri Nov. 2, 2012 4:10 PM EDT
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

This post has been updated.

The tens of millions of dollars that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker raised for his June recall election weren't the only reason Walker won. He was also buoyed by a massive get-out-the-vote operation run by state Republicans, the Republican Governors Association, and outside players like Americans for Prosperity. Together, these right-wing groups reached millions of voters.

Now, Walker says that the political machine built by Republicans for the recall will boost the Romney-Ryan ticket in Wisconsin, potentially delivering the state's 10 electoral votes. "You take all the work that was done earlier this year, when we made four-and-a-half million voter contacts in a state of 5.7 million," Walker said on Fox News on Friday morning. "We had tens of thousands of volunteers help us in my election earlier this year. That excitement continues on."

Is Washington State the New California?

| Fri Nov. 2, 2012 3:25 PM EDT

The old truism, "As goes California, so goes the nation," might be due for a rewrite. From today's San Francisco Chronicle:

If you believe the polls…then Washington voters are poised to legalize two things Californians haven't: same-sex marriage and marijuana.

That's right, the home of the Castro and the Emerald Triangle is about to get upstaged by a state best known for its banana slugs. What happened?

Well, first off, all the crazy hippies got priced out of San Francisco and opened up yoga retreats, third-wave espresso shops, and organic farms in and around Seattle and Portland. I exaggerate only slightly.

Second, and more important, Washington state has fewer churchgoers than California, and especially fewer conservative ones. When the Catholic Church supported Prop. 8, California's gay marriage ban, it could count on its message being heard by the 29 percent of Californians who are Catholic. Catholics account for less than 12 percent of Washingtonians.

And then there's the reefer. California has lots of it, perhaps a surfeit. In 2008, majorities of voters in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, the so-called Emerald Triangle, rejected Prop 19, not because they didn't like tokers, but because they worried that legal weed would decrease margins for the area's pot farmers.

In the case of both ballot issues, Washington has learned from California's mistakes. Gay-rights advocates have framed marriage as a universal family value rather than just a civil right. And pot activists have neutralized opposition from law enforcement by including a provision that bans driving with high blood levels of THC, a rule absent from California's Prop. 19.

So has Washington stolen California's thunder? Maybe, but at least it's not raining down here.