Chart of the day

Chait’s fabulous post on Paul Ryan’s inability to actually grapple with inequality as it actually exists in America (as opposed to in his Ayn Rand-ian alternate universe) is well worth extended excerpts here.  And maybe I will.  For now, though, this chart he links to really gets to the heart of the matter:

In short: the low-testing rich kids are just as likely to graduate from college as high-testing poor kids.   That’s just a depressing indictment of the role of wealth in America.



Unintended consequences of re-defining personhood

So, in its effort to completely eliminate abortion (and even some popular forms of birth control), Mississippi has its citizens voting on an amendment to define legal personhood as beginning at conception.  Slate editor David Plotz responds with a rather interesting list of questions that would seem to follow from such a re-definition.  Some of my favorites:

1. If you are legal person at fertilization, does that mean you could drink at 20 years and three months? Could you drive at 15 and three months? Could you vote at age 17, and collect Social Security at 64?

3. Could you get a tax deduction for your dependent embryo?

5. Could you arrest women for smoking or drinking while pregnant? Could the state file a child abuse case against a mother who didn’t wear a seatbelt or otherwise endangered her fetus?

6. Would you be an American citizen if you were conceived in Mississippi but born elsewhere? Could there be “anchor babies” whose parents come to the United States, have sex, and then return home to Mexico for their baby’s birth?

8. What about freezing fertilized embryos? Would that be allowed? And why? If you’re freezing an embryo indefinitely, isn’t that effectively imprisoning it? We don’t freeze people.

11. If a woman eats food contaminated by Listeria and miscarries, could the agribusiness be prosecuted for murder?

13. How would it affect the census?

Most all of these are actually genuine issues that could be legally raised if personhood was so re-defined.  Even if you are opposed to legal abortion, this strikes me as a solution that creates far more problems than it solves.   And, while this might pass Constitutional muster with Mississippi voters, I seriously doubt it would do so with the slightly higher Constitutional standards of the US Supreme Court (in part, for the intractable issues raised here by Plotz).

Cainmentum rolls on

John Dickerson makes the case that Hermann Cain really can/does present a real long-term threat to Romney.  Not a bad argument, I so want it to be true, but I just don’t think it is.  Here’s the crux:

Cain is no longer flavor of the week—he’s a regular menu item…

What allows Cain to sustain? (Besides easy rhymes?) He’s not from Washington. It comes up time and again in conversations with his supporters. Polls show his strength is with Tea Party voters who are the most anti-Washington in the electorate…

That’s all charming, but with a party so determined to beat President Obama, and with such good chances to do so, can this Cain flirtation blossom into something real? Won’t people start to focus on electability and turn to Romney? The answer (at least as Cain’s people see it): Electability may not be the liability the political elites might think. And actually, the political elites don’t think Cain has an electability problem: 74 percent ofRepublican insiders in a recent Huffington Post poll think Cain can beat Obama…

Perhaps the thickest part of the cushion for Cain is that his conservative voters don’t have anywhere else to go. Michele Bachmann was eclipsed by Perry. That isn’t going to happen to Cain. There aren’t any eclipsing figures left.

I do like this conclusion:

The really exciting thing about the Cain campaign is that while on the one hand he is defying gravity, the candidate and his staff are constantly ordering in more anvils. Cain is running to replace a president who was criticized for having no experience, but Cain himself practically brags about how little knowledge he has with the issues of the day, saying he’ll rely on advisers and smart people. As the clock ticks toward the start of the voting season Cain will spend this Friday and Saturday in the electorally meaningless Alabama. In keeping with the “The More Unconventional the Better” theme, the campaign put out a video of the campaign chief of staff Mark Block making a pitch for Cain while enjoying a cigarette and blowing the smoke into the camera. It was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Sort of like the Cain campaign.  [emphasis mine]

Does history suggest Cain will crash, Icarus-like, to earth.  Indeed.  Yet, there’s a reason we have the word unprecedented.  Cain’s genuine success would, in fact, be unprecedented.  But so would a Black president virtually nobody had heard of 5 years before his election.  Sure, more often than not history and our knowledge of how politics works is a very useful guide.  But not always.  That’s part of the fun of politics.  Herman Cain is fun right now.  As a Democrat, I hope he stays that way– because there’s no way he beats Obama.

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