What is a GMO?

Jimmy Kimmel.  Of course this was catnip for me:


Poor AIG

It’s tough being a capitalist bailed out by the government.  Great Jon Stewart clip:

Fetuses don’t have rights

I was listening to an NPR story the other day about the politics of abortion and was somewhat flabbergasted to hear the NPR blow it when explaining the basics of Roe v. Wade.  (Forgot to pay enough attention, though, to be able to find the link now).  Anyway, the reporter said that in the final trimester, the rights of the fetus were taken into consideration in the ability to make abortion illegal.  Not so!  Abortion can be largely banned in the final trimester under Roe, but because of a “compelling state interest” not the rights of the fetus.  The trimester framework for the legality of abortion, nicely summarized here:

Acceptable government regulation according to Roe v. Wade:

Different rules at different stages of pregnancy were considered appropriate:

  • In the first trimester, the state (that is, any government) could treat abortion only as a medical decision, leaving medical judgment to the woman’s physician.
  • In the second trimester (before viability), the state’s interest was seen as legitimate when it was protecting the health of the mother.
  • After viability of the fetus (the likely ability of the fetus to be able to survive outside and separated from the uterus), the potential of human life could be considered as a legitimate state interest, and the state could choose to “regulate, or even proscribe abortion” as long as the life and health of the mother was protected.

Anyway, very frustrating to hear NPR get this wrong.  And although Roe’s framework has been supplanted by Casey it still remains an important point that the issue is not the rights of the fetus, but the rights of the state in protecting potential human life (similar, but very different things).  Not to open a debate on whether this should be the case or not (personally, I’m pretty comfortable with the Casey framework), but people should at least understand the legal basis behind these important and conversational decisions (and if NPR is going to get it wrong, I’ll step in).

The real purpose of Voter ID

“Integrity of elections” my ass.  If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.  How about this (nicely shared in chart form by Drum):

Voter turnout was reduced by 2-3 percentage points in both states. But of course there’s more to the story. Some groups were more strongly affected than others. Here are the results for Kansas:

Age. In Kansas, the turnout effect among registrants who were 18 years old in 2008 was 7.1 percentage points larger in size than the turnout effect among registrants between the ages of 44 and 53.

….Race or ethnicity. We estimate that turnout was reduced among African-American registrants by 3.7 percentage points more than among Whites in Kansas.

….Length of registration. In Kansas, the reduction in turnout for people registered to vote within 1 year prior to Election Day 2008 was 5.2 percentage points larger in size than for people registered to vote for 20 years or longer prior to Election Day 2008.

Victory! Turnout plummeted among blacks, young people, and college students. What more could an enterprising Republican legislature want?

Oh, and, um, maybe voter fraud was reduced. The Kansas Secretary of State responded to a draft of the GAO report by explaining that “if lower overall turnout occurs after implementation of a photo ID law, some of the decrease may be attributable to the prevention of fraudulent votes.” You betcha.

And from a strongly-worded (and rightly so) Op-Ed in the N&O:

The Supreme Court’s disappointing ruling against reinstating same-day registration and counting out-of-precinct votes serves as a stark reminder that it is time for everyone outraged by the ongoing war against voting to call this coordinated attack for what it is: dishonest, unjust and racist. Harsh words, perhaps, but the shoe fits. [emphasis mine]

The rationale for voting restrictions is restoring public confidence in the integrity of our elections. The problem is that reasons to lack confidence in their integrity have been fabricated, largely out of whole cloth. Major studies have repeatedly failed to unearth anything other than infinitesimal evidence of voter fraud, and states defending their laws restricting voting rights – including North Carolina – have not brought forward evidence to support their claims that it is a problem.

We’ve heard the quotation, attributed to Vladmir Lenin, that a lie told often enough becomes the truth. Anyone who pays attention to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh or most of the Republican delegations in Raleigh and Washington has heard one conspiracy theory after another for years now about how Democrats are out to steal elections, and these stories often revolve around the inherent political corruption in urban areas with high percentages of voters of color. It’s easy to understand why folks are nervous about rigged elections when the likelihood of them is promoted as inevitable and sold as if they reflect an inherent flaw in the character of a substantial percentage of the electorate.

Given the opportunity, the North Carolina legislature restricted opportunities to vote in-person, where evidence of fraud is virtually non-existent, and did not restrict opportunities to vote absentee, where evidence of actual fraud has persisted for decades. The difference is that allowing early voting, same-day registration and counting ballots cast out-of-precinct are more likely to boost African-American turnout, which is more Democratic, while absentee voting boosts white turnout, which is more Republican.

Voting is not a partisan matter. It’s the cornerstone of democracy. In its zeal for reducing voting among groups it mistrusts, our legislature even discontinued pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds. Raise your hand if you think that getting young people signed up to vote is a bad idea.

And spare me your “but you need an ID to … why not to vote.”  Because we have not had problems with in-person voter fraud under the current regime and because requiring that ID disproportionately affects minority groups in electoral representation.  That’s why.

Photo of the day

From the National Geographic Tumblr:

A sled dog, tied to a whale rib, howls under the midnight sun in Alaska, 1969.Photograph by Thomas J. Abercrombie, National Geographic Creative

A sled dog, tied to a whale rib, howls under the midnight sun in Alaska, 1969.PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS J. ABERCROMBIE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

Coolest maps ever

I don’t know how I missed seeing before this collection of maps that uses US census data to show racial segregation in American cities, but it is simply awesome.  My favorite is Detroit (thanks to Eminem I know about 8 Mile Road which divides this map):

In Detroit, among the most segregated cities in America, 8 Mile Road serves as a sharp dividing line. Image: Dustin Cable White: blue dots; African American: green dots; Asian: red; Latino: orange; all others: brown

And you know what’s really cool, you can go here and zoom in on your own neighborhood!


Everybody likes to think Cary, NC is just a bunch of rich white people (and okay, lots of blue dots here), but that purple circle of diversity– that’s my neighborhood.  (And if you are curious, all that red is a huge Indian population in western Cary and neighboring Morrisville).

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