Infographic of the day

The Atlantic has a very cool (and somewhat disturbing) set of Infographics that take a look at how “Black America” would fare in international rankings if it were a separate country, e.g.,

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What Voter ID is really all about

Loved this column from Rob Christensen on the “common sense” voter reforms in NC, aka voter ID:

By 2000, North Carolina ranked 34th in the country in voter participation. The presidential campaign efforts of Barack Obama further enlarged voting participation, particularly by signing up under-registered populations, such as African-Americans and college students. So voter participation increased to 21st in the nation by 2008 and to 11th in the country by 2012.

This may have been a triumph for democracy, but Republicans were shocked when Obama carried the state in 2008 – something they thought was impossible.

As U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican, famously put it: “I’ll beat (Olympic champion) Michael Phelps in swimming before Obama wins North Carolina.”

So when the Republicans took power in Raleigh, they moved to restrict voting – reversing the trend of expanding voting opportunities.

The stated rationale was to improve the integrity of the voting process and reduce the possibility of fraud. But this was a political fig leaf. Virtually no significant voter fraud has been uncovered in North Carolina…

But the voter changes were never about voter fraud; they were about changing the election rules for the political gain of one party.

The GOP legislature voted to discontinue same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting. They also voted to require government-approved photo identification cards, reduce the voting period by a week (although not the number of hours), allow challenges outside a person’s precinct, and end a program that allowed 16-year-olds to preregister. The governor signed the bill into law.

In addition to the new law, several local election boards – now controlled by Republicans – have moved voting sites to less convenient locations for college students. Collectively, the measures make it harder for college students and young people to vote.

This is a reversal of generations of civic activity by Democrats and Republicans to encourage young people to become involved in politics. And it’s being done for short-term political gain.

Among the least defensible changes?  Ending the pre-registration of 16-17 year old kids in high school.   Here my awesome State Senator Josh Stein questions the not-so-awesome Bob Rucho on the matter.  Rucho argues that registration before they are actually 18 is just too confusing for high school kids (maybe for Rucho’s, given his father).

And an excellent editorial from the NYT:

Similar laws have been aggressively pushed in many states by Republican lawmakers who say they are preventing voter fraud, promoting electoral “integrity” and increasing voter turnout. None of that is true. There isvirtually no in-person voter fraud; the purpose of these laws is to suppress voting.

In Texas, where last week a federal judge struck down what she called the most restrictive voter ID law in the country, there were two convictions for in-person voter impersonation in one 10-year period. During that time, 20 million votes were cast. Nor is there any evidence that these laws encourage more voters to come to the polls. Instead, in at least two states — Kansas and Tennessee — they appear to have reduced turnout by 2 percent to 3 percent, according to a report released last week by the Government Accountability Office.

Voter ID laws, as their supporters know, do only one thing very well: They keep otherwise eligible voters away from the polls. In most cases, this means voters who are poor, often minorities, and who don’t have the necessary documents or the money or time to get photo IDs.

And, and how’s this.  A new study (via Vox) finds that when white people see images of Black people they are more in favor of Voter ID:

voter ID study white support

Anybody who tells you Voter ID is about “common sense reforms” or the integrity of elections is either shamefully ignorant or shamefully deceptive.

Quote of the day

Interesting Politico story about how rich Republican billionaires are increasingly giving money to outside Koch money groups that actually have to disclose their donors (the advantage being that these groups can more directly advocate for candidates), but I loved this quote:

“I just kind of decided that it was more important to support it than it was to maintain my privacy,” Cameron said. “I’m 69 years old. I’m much more concerned that my grandkids could be living under communism, or something like it, with the type of leadership that we have right now.”

Riiiiight.  Obama is just a hop, skip, and jump from Stalin and Mao.  Yet more evidence that you don’t actually need to be intelligent to be a billionaire.

Photo of the day

Super-typhoon Vongfang as seen from space:

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“Pro” abortion

I enjoyed reading Hana Rosin’s take on Katha Pollit’s new book, Pro, which argues that women should be unashamedly in favor of abortion.  Right now, in ceding the moral and linguistic high ground, the pro-choice side is on the defensive:

Because frankly, in 2014, it should be no big deal that in a movie a young woman has an abortion and it’s no big deal. We shouldn’t need a book explaining why abortion rights are important. We should be over that by now.

The reason we’re not, according to Pollitt, is that we have all essentially been brainwashed by a small minority of pro-life activists. Only 7 to 20 percent of Americans tell pollsters they want to totally ban abortion, but that loud minority has beaten the rest of us into submission with their fetus posters and their absolutism and their infiltration of American politics. They have landed us in the era of the “awfulization” of abortion, Pollitt writes, where even pro-choicers are “falling all over themselves” to use words like “thorny,” “vexed,” “complex,” and “difficult” instead of doing what they should be doing, which is saying out loud that abortion is a positive social good…

n the years since Roe v. Wade, in fact, the left has time and again signaled retreat—a point my colleague Will Saletan also emphasizes in his 2004 book, Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War. “Safe, legal and rare,” “Permit but discourage”—these updated slogans have left the pro-choice side advocating the neurotic position that you can have an abortion but only if you feel “really really bad about it,” Pollitt writes.

The fog of regret has meant no one is able to confidently defend or even cleanly describe what’s actually going on: Three in 10 American women have abortions by the time they hit menopause. They are not generally victims of rape or incest, or in any pitiable situation from which they need to be rescued. They are making a reasonable and even admirable decision that they can’t raise a child at the moment. Is that so hard to say? As Pollitt puts it, “This is not the right time for me” should be reason enough. And saying that aloud would help push back against the lingering notion that it’s unnatural for a woman to choose herself over others.

Sorry, not working on me.  I was “pro-life” for a lot longer than you’d expect, but left that position long behind because it became quite clear that far too many on the pro-life side were pro-fetus and really had not much interest in helping women and children and also great interest in punishing women for having sex.  That said, although I know believe pre-viability abortion should be legal with minimal obstacles, I still don’t call myself “pro-choice” because I think far too many on the pro-choice side sufficiently wrestle with the complex, thorny, and difficult, ethical and moral questions involved.  You just cannot change the fact that you are ending a life, that in most-cases were nature to take it’s course, would emerge as fully human and vested with all the rights that implies.  I totally understand and appreciate all the reasons we keep abortion legal, but how can you refuse to admit this a complex moral issue?  One of my friends is an expert in the ethics of fertility (and quite pro-choice), and likes to characterize the issue thusly,”if you think it is an easy call either way, you haven’t thought hard enough about it.”

It is quite easy to put aside many of the ardent pro-lifers objections as they are full of illogic and contradictions, e.g.,

She cites one poll for example showing that 38 percent of people say abortion is as “bad as killing a person already born.” But in the same poll 84 percent say it’s fine to save the life of a mother. If you really think about it, this position is untenable. No one would say it was fine to kill a toddler if the mother needed its heart. The pro-life position, she concludes, involves a reflexive moralism but doesn’t really reflect what people know to be true, which is that the fetus and the mother have a complicated relationship, unlike any other.

but I have not ready anything of Pollit’s book that suggests that abortion is not actually a complex moral and ethical issue.  Simply saying otherwise does not make it so.

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