Friday, May 4, 2012

Last Call

GOP voter suppression efforts in red states through requiring hoops and barriers like IDs that require both time and money?  Looks like mission accomplished so far.

The number of black and Hispanic registered voters has fallen sharply since 2008, posing a serious challenge to the Obama campaign in an election that could turn on the participation of minority voters.

Voter rolls typically shrink in non-presidential election years, but this is the first time in nearly four decades that the number of registered Hispanics has dropped significantly. 

Now, there is some good news:  Latino registration is up big in a couple of key states like Florida and New Mexico.  The bad news is down big everywhere else, enough to drop registration from 2008 among minorities by 5% or more nationally.  And you can place the blame squarely on Republicans at the state level disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of low-income voters.

But those efforts, say campaign officials, have been complicated by laws approved by state legislatures since 2008, including some that place additional requirements on groups that register voters.

“It is disheartening to see voting becoming harder in states across the country,” said Katie Hogan, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign. She said the campaign is “doing the challenging work of registering voters, even when Republican legislation is trying to make it more difficult.”

A dozen state legislatures passed rules last year requiring voters to present state-issued photo IDs when they arrive at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, although in four states the laws were vetoed by Democratic governors.

Florida and Ohio will cut nearly in half the number of days for early voting, and Florida lawmakers reversed rules that had made it easier for former felons to vote.

Florida also passed new rules governing groups that register voters, requiring them to turn in completed voter registration forms within 48 hours or risk fines. Groups previously had 10 days to file the forms. As a result, the League of Women Voters, the Boy Scouts and several other organizations that register voters halted efforts in Florida.

Opponents of the laws say Republican legislatures have attempted to tamp down turnout among minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats.

If you're still asking yourself why Republicans are so keen on making it more difficult to vote, this is exactly why.  Lower turnout favors the Republican party, period.  Now Republicans are hoping that reducing the number of voters pays off in national races and in state ones as well.  Republicans now control at least one branch of government in 39 of 50 states.  They want it all.

The Kids Are Too Damn High

I normally leave the War on Drugs stuff to Bon, but I found this article to be interesting to say the least.

An annual study (PDF) of U.S. teens’ drug-using habits, published Wednesday by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, found that the number of teens who say they’ve recently used marjuana has exploded since 2008: so many, in fact, that they now outnumber teens who’ve recently smoked cigarettes.

While the Partnership’s report, published May 2, does not specifically highlight this startling fact, it does place the number of high school students who’ve smoked marijuana in the last month at 27 percent, which represents a whopping 42 percent increase since 2008.

That’s in contrast with an analysis conducted by the Center for Disease Control, which studied 10 years of reporting from the National Youth Tobacco Survey and found in 2009 that teens who’ve reported smoking cigarettes in the last month had hit an all-time low of 17.2 percent, down from 28 percent in 2000.

The Partnership’s report adds that almost half of American teens (47 percent) have used marijuana at least once, which represents a 21 percent increase over the 2008 study. The CDC, on the other hand, noted that in 2009, 30 percent of high school students reported having experimented with cigarette smoking at least once, down from 39 percent in 2000, while about 24 percent had used a tobacco product (including chewing tobacco) recently, down from 34.5 percent.

So at this point, we've finally got more teens who have tried pot than have tried cigarettes.   This tells me two things:  One, state and national efforts to get teens from starting on cigarettes are working.  Two, more teens are turning to pot because frankly it's probably cheaper in most states than a carton of cigs and it's still less addictive.   Now, the study finds there are still way more regular cigarette smokers among high school seniors than regular pot smokers, but more teens are trying pot now.

I think this is going to be more of a long-term trend as states continue to raise cigarette taxes and pot laws get relaxed.  Whether or not that's a good thing or a bad thing, I couldn't tell you, I don't partake of either.

The Dense And The Furious

The Republicans in the House are desperately trying to create a scandal to sink President Obama's nomination (and to threaten impeachment with after he wins in November.)  The key appears to be manufacturing a fake firestorm over Operation Fast And Furious, the Bush-era "gunwalking" program that got marked guns to Mexican drug cartels in order to track their progress.  By the time AG Eric Holder got wind of the various programs, a US Border Patrol agent was dead.

GOP Rep. Darrel Issa has been hounding Holder relentlessly for the last 15 months, basucally wanting every piece of paper that ever had anything to do with the Justice Department programs on anything (which threatens a number of ongoing Justice department investigations) and is now threatening contempt of Congress charges for Holder for not producing documents quickly enough.  Issa's latest move is a draft memo of the contempt citation he says he will issue in full unless Holder immediately "complies".

House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on Thursday released a draft memo laying out the case for holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for producing a “small fraction” of the documents they requested as part of their investigation into Operation Fast and Furious.

The Justice Department, the memo asserted, “has issued false denials, given answers intended to misdirect investigators, sought to intimidate witnesses, unlawfully withheld subpoenaed documents, and waited to be confronted with indisputable evidence before acknowledging uncomfortable facts.”

Issa said in a statement that the draft contempt report “explains the case, to both Members of the Committee and the American people, for holding Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress” and “provides the facts, on which decisions will be made.”

A Justice Department official told TPM that DOJ continues to comply with the Oversight Committee’s requests and said the information it has not released is the type that is historically not released because it would politicized and jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions. That position, according to DOJ, is backed by an Office of Legal Counsel memo authored by President Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department that asserted turning over such documents would allow Congress to “exert pressure or attempt to influence the prosecution of criminal cases.”

Yeah, that's correct:  Holder is issuing the Reagan-era Iran-Contra defense.   Issa has held over half a dozen hearings on this, looking for a scandal, and has yet to find anything (hence the impossible request for information and the contempt threats.)  Now he's trying to make a scandal out of the "coverup".  But hey, it's an election year, and the Democrats have to be punished for not being Republicans.

We'll see how far Issa is willing to go.

Major Victory In Fighting Cancer

A virus that infects humans without causing disease kills breast cancer cells in the laboratory. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) College of Medicine in the US, tested an unaltered form of adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2) on three different human breast cancer types representing different stages of cancer and found it targeted all of them. They hope by uncovering the pathways the virus uses to trigger cancer cell death, their work will lead to new targets for anti-cancer drugs. A paper on this work appeared recently in the journal Molecular Cancer.

Cells have different ways of dying. When a healthy cell gets damaged, or starts behaving in an abnormal way, this normally triggers production of proteins that cause apoptosis or cell suicide: part of this process also involves switching off proteins that trigger cell division. The problem with cancer cells is that apoptosis fails, and the proteins that regulate cell division and proliferation stay switched on, so abnormal cells continue to multiply and create new abnormal cells and that is how tumors develop.
The full article is very newbie-friendly and explains more about how the virus works, and how cancer works.  The amazing thing is, this virus seems to work on all types of breast cancer, despite its size, individual characteristics, drug immunity, etc.  The preliminary results seem to give hope that it could eventually be used to treat all forms of breast cancer.  It will also be interesting to see how it behaves with other types of cancer.

Facepalm, Anyone?

"Tanning Mom" is red hot over accusations that she's a lousy mother for allegedly letting her 5-year-old daughter burn to a fare-thee-well on a tanning bed -- calling her critics "jealous, fat, and ugly."

Krentcil was arrested last week after a school nurse asked her daughter Anna how she got a sunburn and she replied, "I go tanning with mommy." Krentcil was charged with second-degree child endangerment. She pled "not guilty."
TMZ has video goodness and more details. Spoiler alert: she really is crazy.

What age is the cut off place, however?  Isn't a mother who lets a 12-year-old tan doing something equally harmful?

Parents can't let kids smoke because it causes cancer.  They can't let kids drink because it kills brain cells.  There is no doubt that tanning beds can increase the chance of skin cancer dramatically, and that cases among kids are on the rise.

Not only does this poor kid have a sunburn, she has a homemade case of Mommy Dearest.  Can you imagine a woman like that as your primary source of information, nutrition and discipline?

A Reasonable Alternative

Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer in America, but it's also the National Day of Reason, and Charlotte and New Orleans made note of it.

Mayor Anthony Foxx of Charlotte, North Carolina and the Council of the City of New Orleans both issued National Day of Reason proclamations, urging citizens to celebrate free thought and rational inquiry.

In late April, Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) issued a proclamation on the House floor recognizing the National Day of Reason. He described the event as “an opportunity to reaffirm the Constitutional separation of religion and government.”

The National Day of Reason was promoted by the American Humanist Association and the Secular Coalition for America. The yearly celebration occurs on the first Thursday of May, the same day as the National Day of Prayer.

“Reason should be the guiding force for public policy,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “The National Day of Prayer excludes millions of Americans who choose not to pray or prefer keeping prayer private. Reason is something that everyone can celebrate.”

Considering a good 20% or more of Americans don't believe in God, it's smart if not eminently reasonable to include them in the day, yes?   We could certainly use more celebration of reason, inquiry and rational thought in America if you ask me.

And for the record, I'm agnostic.  Seems pretty reasonable to me.

The Enemy Of My Friend Is What Again?

The funniest story all week comes from Mediaite, and it of course involves Mitt Romney and the Drudge Bait Junior Link Club, Breitbart Memorial Division.

In a Washington, D.C. club, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney met with conservative media outlets in a two-hour, off-the-record session, where he heard their concerns that his campaign may be leaking too many stories to mainstream news outlets instead of conservative ones.

The Huffington Post reports that attendees included members of National Review, Daily Caller, American Spectator, Washington Examiner, Human Events, RedState, Right Wing News, Powerline, Townhall, among others. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus also attended.

“The basic message I got is the primary’s over and we want you on our side and working with the campaign,” one attendee told HuffPo. Another said the meeting felt like a “sort of an olive branch to conservative media.”

Oh, the web of irony made dense by its many goofy strands.  First of all, please note that HuffPo broke this story about Romney and a bunch of conservatives about a secret meeting of conservatives.  Second, please note the wingnut Cheetos Hot Fries patrol here was telling Mitt Romney what to do, that they all pretty much thought they outranked him in the room.  Third, If you haven't noticed, the swing votes Mitt Romney needs pretty much don't read any of those "news outlets" listed above, which is why he was talking to the "lamestream media" in the first place.

Even better?  The bloggers who didn't make the guest list and are bitching about it.  It's hysterical. stuff, really...and let's keep in mind a lot of these guys openly supported Mitt's primary opponents and had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this Come to Moroni meeting.

This is going to be an awesome several months.


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