Chart of the day

Very cool  graph  of browser market share put together by Yglesias:


I’m writing this post on Chrome and have loved it ever since it first came out. I assumed that more of its market share  would have come at the expense of Firefox (which I still use when sites don’t work well with Chrome) rather than IE.

The big liars win big

For a long time, it’s been clear that bald-faced lying is a winning political strategy.  Alas, there used to be a limit to just how egregious the lie is, but Mitt Romney is currently proving there’s little political cost to just going out there and lying your pants off every single day.  I caught this “four Pinocchio” factcheck this morning and just shook my head.   Kevin Drum’s response to the same thing seems pretty spot-on to me:

Politicians have increasingly discovered over the past couple of decades that even on a national stage you can lie pretty blatantly and pay no price, since the mainstream media, trapped in its culture
of objectivity, won’t really call you on it, limiting themselves to fact checking pieces like Kessler’s buried on an inside page. And because virtually nobody except political junkies ever see this stuff, it doesn’t hurt their campaigns at all.

This discovery — that you can tell almost any lie without paying a price — is, in some sense, an example of national politics becoming a lot more like local politics. Blatant lying has always been routine in local races that don’t get a lot of press coverage, but the brighter media spotlight kept at least a bit of a lid on it in higher profile races. However, with the splintering of the mainstream national media in recent years and the rise of the web and social media, national politics is local again. And being called on your lies by the occasional earnest fact checker now matters about as much as it does when a local columnist for a weekly newspaper calls you on it.

It takes a while for people to realize that norms have changed and to take advantage of it. Lots of politicians are probably still reluctant to lie too brazenly because they’re still working under the old rules, where the national media might call you on it and it might actually make a difference. The smart ones have figured out that this isn’t how it works anymore. Romney’s one of the smart ones.

I didn’t blog about it at the time and I can’t remember where the link was, but a couple weeks ago there was a study that found that while Romney and Obama may be “lying at similar rates,” Romney is in a class by himself when it comes to “pants on fire” lies.  Here’s a nice David Corn piece on the same topic.

Photo of the day

From the National Geographic traveler photo contest:

Who Knew Bunnies Had Tongues?

Photo and caption by Christine Cauble

I adopted a bunny in the town of Ganzi, Sichuan province, during my motorcycle ride to cross China. He rode with me in my camera bag. At an overnight stop, I bought him some cherries….what a treat for him. He looked like he was in paradise during the cherry demolition so I snapped some shots and caught a happy tongue.

Location: Chengdu, Sichuan, China

Moral equivalent of murder

I saw this story about the morning after pill in my local paper and was going to blog about a quote in it, but I oddly had some difficulty finding it on-line.  Anyway, one of my students in my on-line class posted a link in an on-line discussion, so here, I am.  The main gist of the story is quite important:

But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.

It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work. Because they block creation of fertilized eggs, they would not meet abortion opponents’ definition of abortion-inducing drugs. In contrast, RU-486, a medication prescribed for terminating pregnancies, destroys implanted embryos.

Not that it’s anything new, but this little bit is what bothered me:

Based on the belief that a fertilized egg is a person, some religious groups and conservative politicians say disrupting a fertilized egg’s ability to attach to the uterus is abortion, “the moral equivalent of homicide,” as Dr. Donna Harrison, who directs research for the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, put it.

You know what– I’m actually quite comfortable agreeing that in many, if not most, circumstances abortion is a moral wrong.  But you know what, so is adultery and we don’t outlaw that.  What’s moral versus what’s legal are very different issues.   Honestly, though, even accepting that abortion is the wrongful taking of human life this is just not the same thing as “homicide.”  The reason it an absolutely horrible thing to have a child killed is that it massively reverberates throughout the lives of everybody who knew that child– especially the parents and immediate family.  It is a life-altering moral devastation for a family and community.  It has an impact like throwing a 10 pound rock into a baby pool.  An abortion, which we can argue is a horrible wrong to that unborn human, simply lacks the same moral weight because there are simply almost no wider reverberations.  It’s a small stone at most thrown into that same baby pool (not to minimize the impact it can have, but seriously, compared to the murder of a child that people actually know and experience in life).  To place the ending of the life of an unborn child on the same moral plane as the ending of the life of a born, living, breathing, interacting human child, to me, devalues the life of the latter.   So, to be redundant, I’m quite willing to accept that abortion is a moral wrong, but I strongly reject the contention that it is the moral equivalent of homicide.  And regardless of all that, the law should be a separate issue.  Morality should inform what our laws our, not determine what they are.

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