Chart of the day

Via Ezra:

“Congressional Republicans may have become more anti-tax in the last 30 years, but the American public has made the opposite transition: in March 1982, three-quarters of Americans said spending cuts alone should be used to reduce deficits; today, about the same share say tax increases should be included in any debt-reduction package. Remember, of course, that tax rates were much higher 30 years ago than they are today.” — Catherine Rampell, Economix. Here’s more from Bruce Bartlett. 

Honestly, when you consider how out of touch the modern Republican party actually is with voters on economic issues, it really is quite impressive the level of electoral success they’ve achieved.  Of course voters want the lower taxes Republicans promise, but they don’t want the lower services that come with that, and they are quite happy to see more taxes on rich people.  

Kathleen Parker vs Occam’s Razor

Kathleen Parker’s column today argues that Mitt Romney’s “flip flop” on abortion is not an act of political expediency, but rather a thoughtfully-reasoned and genuine attitude change of a mature adult who has simply learned more about the science and ethics of early human life.  Riiiiiiight.

This is not to suggest that Romney hasn’t changed his mind. There is a record. Then again, who but the most-barnacled ideologue hasn’t had a change of heart given new information (abortion), experience (Romneycare) or circumstances (a national election vs. a state one)?

Romney wasn’t some still politically unformed 20-year old when he was running for Massachusetts governor– he was a middle-aged father with plenty of political experience and surely a pretty solid understanding of what’s going on in-utero in a 1st trimester pregnancy.

So, there’s that, or we could believe that Romney– most likely always pro-life (the man is a devout Mormon)– strongly advocated a pro-choice position because he would not be able to be elected governor or a liberal state otherwise.  Then, running for a Republican presidential nomination where he could not get elected without being strongly pro-life, he is strongly pro-life.     One of these narratives strikes me as just a tad more believable.

I don’t know what Romney actually believes on abortion.  And it doesn’t really matter, because the best evidence suggests that his political position will always be the one which makes him more electable to a particular constituency.

Photo of the Day

I’ve come to love Alan Taylor’s InFocus at the Atlantic so much, I decided I need to find more sites like it.  Well, I found out that before InFocus, he ran a site for the Boston Globe called “The Big Picture.”  I’ts been taken over by others, but it is pretty awesome.  I especially enjoyed the set of photos emphasizing variations in human density in response to the 7 billionth human.

End of Television comedy

Nice article in the Times last week on how we’ve reached the end of television comedy.  No, not like that, but like Fukiyama’s end of history:

I don’t think my disenchantment is a result of graduating to cranky-old-man status. Heck, I was cranky when I was 25, but I still laughed at “M*A*S*H.” No, it’s definitely the End of Comedy. As with Francis Fukuyama’s much-discussed essay “The End of History,” that doesn’t mean there will be no more small-screen humor. It means that television comedy has ceased evolving.

Certainly no series introduced this fall is breaking new ground.

It goes on to discuss five tired themes that come up again and again in modern TV comedy without any fresh takes.  I think the cheap reliance on shock humor is the lamest:

1. GUESS WHAT? WE HAVE GENITALS Nothing has been more prevalent on new sitcoms this fall than the organs and bodily functions centered just below the navel but above the knees. Ashton Kutcher made sure he made an impression in his “Two and a Half Men” debut by strolling around naked. Kat Dennings tossed off a “vagina” a minute into the first episode of “2 Broke Girls.” A few weeks ago on “New Girl,” Ms. Deschanel’s character accidentally saw one of her roommates naked and couldn’t shut up about it, or It.

Much of this barrage, though, has felt ham-handed, a clumsy celebration of the fact that the censors who used to keep words like “vagina” and “penis” out of prime time have apparently all died. We can say this, therefore we’re going to say it over and over.

But there have always been genital references on television; it’s just that the people making them in the past (besides needing to please those censors) knew that subtle is funnier than brazen.

You’ll have to click over to read the other tired and over-used themes.  For what it’s worth, I think 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, and Modern Family are all doing consistently good work.

Herman Cain isn’t having any fun

So, with Herman Cain “re-assessing” his campaign (and possibly even having already dropped out by the time you read this), the one thing that comes to my mind is that this whole running for president thing just isn’t any fun for Cain any more.  For a while, it was lots of fun.  He got to go around at debates and say “9-9-9” a lot and have lots of Tea Party types show him the love.  Meanwhile, there was not a lot of scrutiny and not a lot of hard work put into things like a campaign organization and a grueling schedule of meeting voters.  All the while, his future value as a Fox News commentator has been increasingly daily.  What’s not to like.  Then, honestly, I expect as much to his surprise as anyone, he became a frontrunner (at least in the poll-driven media take) and began to receive the scrutiny, etc., that a front-runner receives.  Not so fun.  True or not, does anybody seriously think these past allegations of sexual harassment and now an extra-marital affair would’ve ever come out if Cain had just remained “that Godfather’s pizza guy” saying 9-9-9 a lot and hovering at under 5% in the polls?  Absolutely not.  Running for president is not so fun when you get front-runner scrutiny.  The fun is over and it looks like so is Cain’s campaign.

Why is Siri anti-abortion?

I’m much to cheap to get an Iphone (though I love my Ipad and Itouch– those monthly data costs are killer), but I have to admit that the voice-activated assistant, Siri, is pretty cool.  I was pretty surprised to learn, though, that she’s really letting her politics get in the way.

Ask the Siri, the new iPhone 4 assistant, where to get an abortion, and, if you happen to be in Washington, D.C., she won’t direct you to the Planned Parenthood on 16th St, NW. Instead, she’ll suggest you pay a visit to the 1st Choice Women’s Health Center, an anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) in Landsdowne, Virginia, or Human Life Services, a CPC in York, Pennsylvania. Ask Google the same question, and you’ll get ads for no less than 7 metro-area abortion clinics, 2 CPCs and a nationwide abortion referral service.

Ask in New York City, and Siri will tell you “I didn’t find any abortion clinics.”

It’s an experience that’s being replicated by women around the country: despite plentiful online information about actual places to get an abortion, Siri doesn’t seem to provide it. It’s a similar experience for women seeking emergency contraception: in New York City, Siri doesn’t know what Plan B is and, asked for emergency contraception, offers up a Google results page of definitions.

Lest you think this is representative of Siri just not being all that effective, it’s not:

But Siri certainly seems to know a whole lot about plenty of other things iPhone customers might want. Below are 10 things Siri can help you find.

1. Viagra.
2. Hospitals to go to if you’ve had an erection lasting for more than 5 hours.
3. Places you might be able to score marijuana.
4. Where to dump a body: in Brooklyn, it recommends a smelting plant in New Jersey.

No matter what you think of abortion, it’s just wrong that Siri seems to be forwarding an ideological agenda about a legal activity.  I’m honestly quite surprised.  I’d expect this form a Wal-Mart product, but Apple?

Nuclear protesting is fun!

Alan Taylor’s latest curated images, in this case a series of anti-nuclear protests in Germany.  I just loved this one as I’m quite amused by how much this one man has clearly enjoyed attaching himself to railroad tracks to prevent a train with nuclear waste from passing:

Infidelity and demographics

Came across this a little while ago and thought it was pretty interesting.  Given today’s big news about the most recent allegations regarding Herman Cain’s marital fidelity, this seemed like a good time to go ahead and post this. Basically, this is a report that looks at marital fidelity (or lack thereof) and demographics.  Of course, what seems most striking is the male-female gap in actual cheating.   The curvilinear pattern in education is somewhat interesting as well, as those “some college” types are the biggest cheaters.   And, hey, as a Black Man, Cain certainly is more likely to be a cheater than any other demographic category.  Especially as an older one (presumably, the longer one is married, the more opportunities to cheat.


The second chart looks not at behavior, but attitudes.  Here the story seems to be– consistent with a number of other “moral” attitudes– more education leads to more tolerance from deviation from “traditional values”.  Thus, even though they don’t cheat the most, the post-graduates are the most accepting of infidelity.

Shaken Baby and SC injustice

Why does being conservative have to mean that you are inured to gross injustice?  Back this summer I blogged on the increasing controversy about shaken baby syndrome and the dubiousness of the cases against many people currently serving prison sentences for killing babies who, in all likelihood, never did anything wrong at all.  Sure, there are legitimate cases of this, but there’s also cases with not just reasonable, but probable doubt, where there have been convictions.  In light of the rapidly-evolving scientific understanding, you’d like to think the Supreme Court might be a little more sensitive to issues of injustice in cases like this, but apparently that would be asking too much.  Far more important to follow the precise letter of a very imperfect law than to let a probably innocent person go free– right?  Emily Bazelon has the details:

The Supreme Court released a decision last month that will easily be the most vindictive of the term. And hardly anyone noticed.

That’s because the case didn’t go through the full treatment of oral argument and a signed majority opinion. Instead, the court quietly went about sending a grandmother back to prison for a crime she probably did not commit, to bring a lower court to heel. It’s a decision that treats the technicalities of appellate review as paramount, and the task of doing justice as beside the point.

[details about a highly dubious conviction.  Read them, you should]

The California Supreme Court declined to review the case. So Smith turned to the federal courts. At this point, the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act kicks in. This is perhaps my least-favorite law. AEDPA tells federal courts that they can’t overturn state courts except in a narrow set of circumstances: If a conviction is contrary to or unreasonably applies clearly established federal law, or if it’s based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. AEDPA is a straitjacket. The federal courts are supposed to put it on and quit worrying about whether innocent people have been put in prison.

A panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit refused to do that. They looked at the medical testimony against Shirley Ree Smith and how badly it holds up to the light of current knowledge, and they said that Smith had spent enough years in prison…

Normally, that would be that. AEDPA or no AEDPA, the Supreme Court doesn’t usually reach out and grab sad, fact-bound cases like this one. But liberal 9th Circuit judges are a thorn in the side of the Supreme Court’s conservative justices. Last month, after twice sending the 9th Circuit pointed warnings about this case, the Supreme Court  reversed the circuit court’s decision. The majority’s brief and unsigned opinion concedes that “doubts about whether Smith is in fact guilty are understandable.” But according to six justices, it’s not the 9th Circuit’s job to do anything about that…

In Shirley Ree Smith’s case, Justice Ginsburg concludes, “I would not ignore Smith’s plight and choose her case as a fit opportunity to teach the 9th Circuit a lesson.” That’s exactly right, too. There is only one lesson worth learning from this case, and it is about the power of mercy.

Bazelon concludes that California’s governor, Jerry Brown, still has the chance to do the right thing.  Since he is a Democrat, maybe he actually will.

When gaining weight was cool

Just one in a series of amazing (to these modern eyes) ads decrying skinniness and the virtues of weight gain for being an attractive woman.   Pretty incredible that we’ve got from that to this:

Anorexic model

It’s quite a tale of how society can structure our ideas of what is attractive (within a range, of course).  And I still don’t get how fashion models are invariably just absurdly skinny when very few men I know actually seem to find such women attractive.  Not to mention, if one buys evolutionary theories of sexual attraction (which I do), the woman in the bottom picture is going to have a lot of trouble bearing children.  Anyway, do check out all the ads just to think about how far our society’s messages about women’s bodies have changed.

Photo(s) of the day

Well, obviously the Atlantic In Focus site is now one of my favorite sources for amazing images.   Here’s my favorite from a project described thusly:

In November 1971, the newly created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a massive photo documentary project, called DOCUMERICA, to record these changes. More than 100 photographers were hired not only to document specific environmental issues, but to capture images of everyday life, showing how we interacted with the environment and capturing the way parts of America looked at that moment in history.

[Click on the image below to go the Atlantic site where the images are much larger– this blog really shrinks photos]

Alright, had to add this one, too:

How in the world does anybody ever get a car out of there?!

The real problem with moderates

As I wrote recently, this silly “moderate” and/or “radical centrist” third party beloved by ignorant pundits is not going anywhere.  That said, it’s still nice to see EJ Dionne lay out so clearly why it is such a horrible idea:

Some of my middle-of-the-road columnist friends keep ascribing our difficulties tostructuralproblems in our politics. A few call for a centrist third party. But the problem we face isn’t about structures or the party system. It’s about ideology — specifically a right-wing ideology that has temporarily taken over the Republican Party and needs to be defeated before we can have a reasonable debate between moderate conservatives and moderate progressives about our country’s future.  [emphasis mine]

A centrist third party would divide the opposition to the right wing and ease its triumph. That’s the last thing authentic moderates should want.

Yep, a lot of these knee-jerk centrists keep insisting– despite voluminousness evidence to the contrary– that the “right” or “moderate” approach must simply be half-way between the two parties.  Yet, this fails to account for the fact that the Republicans have moved the goal posts so far that they are out in the parking lot.  So long as the Republican party is in thrall to people who see lower taxes for rich people as the sine qua non of politics and are willing to destroy the full faith and credit of the US and cause all sorts of unnecessary hardship to ordinary Americans in pursuit of that goal, there really cannot be any compromise.  The sad truth is that so many journalists and even ordinary people are so constitutionally inclined to take a “split the difference” approach that they fail to appreciate how truly radical the current Republican party is.  To simply call for a moderate third way is to deny that essential reality of contemporary American politics.

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