Photo of the day

When I’ve attempted forced perspective photos, it’s been an unmitigated failure.  Now this is how it’s done.  Photos by Michael Paul Smith.  Click the link for more.

modelcars10

modelcars9

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Declining support for the death penalty

I found Gallup’s latest on the death penalty to be quite interesting.  Support has really been dropping more than I realized.  I’ve got to think all the exonerations of innocent people from death row have something to do with it.  Here’s the main chart:

Trend: Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?

Also, quite interesting is how much this has become a partisan split:

Support for the Death Penalty -- 1988-2013 Trend by Party ID

Since early in Bill Clinton’s days (a notable supporter of the death penalty as part of his “new Democrat” image) Democratic support has declined from 75 down to 47.  And the smaller decline in Indepdents likely represents a similar decline in Democratic leaners among the category.  With a clear partisan split, now, it will be interesting to see if this reemerges as a partisan issue.  Though, I think we’d need to see Democrats below 40% for that to happen.

And, a final chart, that I find somewhat depressing:

Trend: Generally speaking, do you believe the death penalty is applied fairly or unfairly in this country today?

Short version, there’s a non-trivial portion of the electorate who finds the death penalty to be applied “unfairly” but supports it anyway.  In a better world, this number would never be lower than the topline number in the first chart.

Video of the day (climate change)

I gotta say, I really love these vlog brothers.  And I have a soft spot for Hank Green given that I actually use hankgreene as a frequent username.   Here’s a nice short and entertaining piece on climate change denialism

WSJ redefines “expert”

Just wow.  What more can you say about Suzanne Somers “expert” column on the Affordable Care Act for the Wall Street Journal.  Do their opinion pages have any intellectual credibility?

expert

 

He piece is an utter embarrassment for anybody who actually understands pretty much anything about the ACA.  But don’t read me, nobody can rip foolishness like this to shreds than Chait (he should also look into reviewing bad movies).

Somers may lack the “qualifications” to analyze public policy of an Alicia Munnell, but she has written no fewer than 24 books on beauty, aging, weight loss, and other issues relevant to health care generally, and whatever she lacks in traditional analytic skills, she more than makes up for with a strong love of freedom. If your newspaper is going to publish a weekly column by Karl Rove, you have already crossed whatever conceptual boundary might stop you from publishing Suzanne Somers.

Still, even by the Journal’s meager intellectual standards, Somers’s op-ed goes badly, badly awry. I would strongly urge any readers to take 90 seconds from their day to read Somers’s entire column. Her basic premise appears to be that Obamacare is aimed primarily, and perhaps entirely, at retirees:

Reminder: This appeared in The Wall Street Journal. In addition to offering her “down and dirty” advice for retirees, Somers has strong views on socialism:

And then there is another consideration: It’s the dark underbelly of the Affordable Care Act reminiscent of what Lenin and Churchill both said. Lenin: “Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialist state.” Churchill: “Control your citizens’ health care and you control your citizens.”

Unsurprisingly, Lenin never said that line — it’s a decades-old right-wing fabrication. The more curious line is the Churchill quote. It’s almost certainly fake, too; it does not appear in the LexisNexis database or in Google. Unless Somers has done original archival work on Churchill, she seems to have fabricated that quote on her own, or possibly received it via chain e-mail…

We eagerly await subsequent Somers’s augmentations of the Journal’s Pulitzer-winning critique of Obamacare.

Photo of the day

Yet another great gallery of animal photos from the Telegraph.  This very last one is my favorite:

Bird-riding-bird

Photographer Jon Winslow, from Dover in New Hampshire, USA, captured this moment when an eagle decided to eat its lunch a little too close to two kingbirds’ nest. The kingbirds, defending their home, flew after the eagle, with one deciding to take a ride on the eagles back, pecking at the larger bird as it tried to make a desperate escape with its fish still in its grasp.Picture: Jon Winslow/Caters

Inside the Democratic mind

Last week I linked to an interesting Rob Christensen column about a series of focus groups and surveys to get into the mind of the typical GOP supporter.  Short version: the country is changing and they don’t like it, damn it.

Not surprisingly a letter writer to the N&O has gone inside the Democratic mind and wonders why we want to give all our hard-earned money away to lazy freeloaders and why we should they that the government should play a substantial role in health care just because it does in every other advanced democracy.  Great, great response to this from PoliticsNC:

Let me help you out.

We believe in fairness. Most of us believe theincome disparity that is greater now than at any time in the past 100 years has negative consequences for our economy and our citizens. We believe that Reaganomics shifted the tax burden from the wealthy and corporations onto the middle class. As a result, we have aconcentration of wealth and the gap between rich and poor is widening. The tax increases on the wealthy that President Obama introduced are just a first step toward addressing this problem.

We believe in a strong social safety net. As the wealthiest country in the world, we have an obligation to our fellow citizens to ensure no one falls too far into poverty. We also believe that health care should be part of that equation, as it is in every other industrialized nation. Most of us would prefer some sort of single-payer plan that would look more like Medicare but grudgingly accept Obamacare as the compromise we have to live with.

Most Democrats are capitalists who believe that the free market creates jobs and economic prosperity. However, we also believe that an unregulated market stifles economic mobility, threatens our environment and leads to social unrest. While Republicans worry about the government picking winners, we worry about the impact of the market’s losers.

Government is the only vehicle available to mitigate the harmful effects of an unregulated free market. We don’t like big government; we like responsible government. Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is an example of such regulation, though many on my side of the ideological spectrum wish it was more powerful.

Good stuff.  Couldn’t have said it better myself.

The good news on marijuana

First, let’s just be clear on a couple of things.  1) Marijuana is not good for you.  2) Marijuana is actually less harmful for the individual and society than alcohol.  As my all-things-criminal-justice-especially-drugs guru, Mark Kleiman is always quick to remind people, just because marijuana is not as bad as alcohol, doesn’t mean it’s good.   A critical question that remains to be answered is… where marijuana becomes legal will marijuana consumption largely serve to replace alcohol consumption or supplement alcohol consumption?  Given fact #2 above, if the answer is largely replace, that’s great news.  Given fact #1, if the answer is supplement, that’s bad news.  Thing is, this is an empirical question that we just don’t have the data on yet.

Now, it’s early, and it’s just one state, but the latest evidence from California is cause for optimism.  It appears that marijuana usage largely serves to replace alcohol consumption:

California’s 17-year experience as the first state to legalize medical marijuana offers surprising lessons, experts say.

Warnings voiced against partial legalization — of civic disorder, increased lawlessness and a drastic rise in other drug use — have proved unfounded.

Instead, research suggests both that marijuana has become an alcohol substitute for younger people here and in other states that have legalized medical marijuana,[emphasis mine] and that while driving under the influence of any intoxicant is dangerous, driving after smoking marijuana is less dangerous than after drinking alcohol.

Again, all necessary caveats, but this has to be considered good news.  It suggests that dramatically expanding legal access to marijuana could very well have an overall net benefit for society simply through decreased alcohol use.  Throw in the significant benefits to our criminal justice system, and we’re looking at a win-win.

Now, I’m not naive, I know it’s not all sunshine and roses, but purely from a policy analysis perspective, legal (and taxed) marijuana is looking ever more like a winner.

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