Funniest [so-called debate] exchange of the night

Bring them all back home!

Romney: “Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now at under 285…We’re headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That’s unacceptable to me.”

Obama: “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

My one-line comment on American foreign policy? Close down all our foreign bases and bring our troops home!

2nd-line? Putting them to work on rebuilding our tawdry infrastructure requires half the budget dollars of supporting them abroad.

Arcane law challenged by three protestors arrested for wearing masks in a demonstration

The crowd had gathered outside the Russian Consulate in New York, awaiting the sentencing in Moscow of members of the punk protest band Pussy Riot.

Some held aloft placards proclaiming their solidarity with the band members; others strummed guitars. Many in the crowd that day in August wore the same sort of brightly colored balaclavas worn by the women in the band.

The choice of apparel led to the arrest of some demonstrators, who were charged with disorderly conduct and with violating an arcane provision in the loitering law that makes it unlawful for three or more people to wear masks in public.

Now, a lawyer for three women arrested that day says he is preparing to challenge the constitutionality of the law, which he argues should not apply to peaceful protesters

Mr. Siegel said his arguments would differ from those used in previous challenges. Instead of stating that his clients needed to hide their identities with masks because the ideas they were spreading are controversial, he said, he will assert that the masks themselves were integral to the message the three women were communicating.

The ban on masks in New York State dates to 1845, when it was adopted in response to events in the Hudson Valley, where local tenant farmers disguised as American Indians had attacked and killed landlords. The law includes exceptions for masquerade parties and similar events…

The law has been litigated several times over the past decade or so, with state courts, federal courts and appeals panels seesawing back and forth over whether it can be fairly applied.

It’s nice to sit back and say the law can be applied in a couple different directions. Over time that established no useful precedent and that’s what Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence is all about. So, it comes down to First Amendment rights. If a mask of any sort is demonstrably part of your protest, you should be able to wear it.

I’ve been in some gigantic anti-war demonstrations where the Bread-and-Puppet Theatre folks supported individual puppets a dozen feet high and completely encasing their upper body and heads. Sure as hell some ambitious DA who wants to be mayor will go ahead and prosecute a puppeteer – if the law is left standing.

9-year-old girl in Halloween costume shot – mistaken for a skunk

Of course – anyone could see the resemblance…

A little girl wearing a black-and-white Halloween costume was mistaken for a skunk and shot by a relative at a party, police in Pennsylvania said.

The 9-year-old was hit in the shoulder but was alert and talking as she was taken to a hospital in Pittsburgh after the incident Saturday night in New Sewickley Township according to the Beaver County Times…

According to media reports, the girl, wearing a black hat with a white tassel, was hiding over the edge of a hill outside the house where the party was taking place when she was spotted by a relative about 8:30 p.m. Thinking the distant figure was a skunk, he fired a shotgun.

Police did not name the girl or identify the shooter or his relationship to her. Authorities told the Beaver County Times that it was not clear if charges would be filed against the shooter, who apparently had not been drinking alcohol.

News of the incident sparked a flurry of comments on the newspaper’s website touching on both gun rights and animal rights. “Really, just leave the animals alone. The thing is outside at night, where do you expect them to be? Was he worried that a skunk was going to break into his car? Peep into his windows?” one reader posted.

Several questioned the wisdom of pulling out a loaded gun at a gathering with children, while others questioned the wisdom of allowing a young girl to be out alone after dark. “Who was chaperoning this party? And who in their right mind shoots a skunk in the vicinity of their home? Everything about this story just stinks,” someone wrote.

Most just expressed shock that anyone could mistake a 9-year-old child for a skunk. “Just a bit confused here. Are 9-year-olds that small or are there really really big skunks in that area,” wrote another reader.

Most states with concealed-carry laws requires applicants for a license to pass a gun safety course. Otherwise, any idiot who hasn’t broken the law – too often – can buy a gun.

Keeping it at hand to shoot a skunk or a little girl, I guess.

Election proves once again women are smarter than men

If only women voted, President Obama would be on track for a landslide re-election, equaling or exceeding his margin of victory over John McCain in 2008. Mr. Obama would be an overwhelming favorite in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and most every other place that is conventionally considered a swing state. The only question would be whether he could forge ahead into traditionally red states, like Georgia, Montana and Arizona.

If only men voted, Mr. Obama would be biding his time until a crushing defeat at the hands of Mitt Romney, who might win by a similar margin to the one Ronald Reagan realized over Jimmy Carter in 1980. Only California, Illinois, Hawaii and a few states in the Northeast could be considered safely Democratic. Every other state would lean red, or would at least be a toss-up.

Although polls disagree on the exact magnitude of the gender gap…the consensus of surveys points to a large one this year — rivaling the biggest from past elections.

The gender gap is nothing new in American politics. Since 1972, when exit polling became widespread, men and women split their votes in three elections: 1996, 2000, and 2004. They came close to doing so on several other occasions. In 2008, for example, Mr. Obama won resoundingly among women, beating Mr. McCain by 13 points, but only won by a single point among men.

The biggest gender gap to date in the exit polls came in 2000, when Al Gore won by 11 points among women, but George W. Bush won by 9 points among men — a 20-point difference. The numbers this year look very close to that…

And look what we got? Another war based on lies and corruption.

The gender gap has been growing over time. It was nearly absent, for instance, in 1972 and 1976, the first two years that the exit polls tested it.

But after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, reproductive rights became a greater focus in presidential elections — particularly under Ronald Reagan in 1980, who was more willing to campaign on the issue of abortion than most of his predecessors. The gender gap jumped to 17 points that year, with men much more likely to vote for Mr. Reagan…

Presidential candidates have faced increasing pressure to align with the bases of their parties on social issues. Mr. Obama reversed his previous position to support same-sex marriage this year. Mr. Romney has long since abandoned a number of moderate stances he took on social issues as governor of Massachusetts, when he said he supported abortion rights. So long as the ideological gap between the parties grows, the gender gap may grow as well.

More so than most articles on the topic, Nate Silver addresses rational behavior by women, irrational reactions by men – based on bigotry and ignorance. I realize this is colored by demographics and economic bands; but, another factor is the Republican Party’s policy of demonstrating as much contempt for women as they have for non-whites.

They apparently think no one notices. Especially women.

Upper middle-class Americans believe the Bible tells True Believers to vote Republican

Every four years, the differences between the U.S. political parties are thrown into sharp relief, thanks to presidential elections. A study of three decades of voter choice has shown that while the influence of religion on voter choice intensified in the years between the elections of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Barack Obama in 2008, the phenomenon is limited to upper-income white Protestants and Catholics.

In a study…Thomas Hirschl and…James Booth analyzed two large surveys of voter choice. The General Social Survey is a nationally representative, repeat cross-section of American voters across eight presidential elections from 1980 to 2008, and the Cornell National Social Survey (CNSS) recovered identified presidential choice in 1,000 households for the 2008 election. In addition to basic demographic information collected in both surveys, the CNSS included a “biblical authority scale” to assess the degree to which a respondent agreed with such statements as “The Bible is without contradiction” and “The Bible is to be read literally.”

A thorough analysis of voter presidential choice and personal characteristics, from family income to race, gender and religious identity, allowed the researchers to identify not only the magnitude of polarization, but also its specific source within the general population.

Upper-income white Protestants who believe the Bible is the literal word of God have more than doubled their odds of voting Republican — from 2.7 GOP voters for every one Democratic voter among this group in 1980, to 6.1 for every one in 2008,” said Hirschl. “Conversely, secular-minded, upper-income white Protestants reversed their partisan preference, from 1.9 to 1 in favor of the Republican Party in 1980, to a 2.2 to 1 advantage for Democratic voters in 2008.”

A less dramatic but significant increase in religious-partisan differences was also found in upper-income white Catholics. Contrary to popular belief, this polarization was evident only in white households that had a total income greater than $75,000 (2009 equivalent) per year — the “comfort class.”

“There was no comparable trend among lower income white Protestants or Catholics,” Hirschl noted. “In addition, African-Americans remained loyal Democratic voters throughout the 28-year study period, regardless of their religious identity…”

The finding that an increase in secular-religious polarization was restricted to the upper-income white voters, even during a period of increasing economic inequality, runs counter to the predictions of a society-wide “culture war.” According to Hirschl, the study’s results are evidence of a decoupling of religious politics from the politics of economic inequality, presenting opportunities for the political parties to market themselves differently to different sectors.

Yup, somewhat of a surprise to me. If you accept that income follows education – at least in the most general terms – I would think acquired knowledge would override the knee-jerk responses generally required by religion. I guess not.

American exceptionalism at work, again?

Boys are reaching puberty earlier – as are girls

It is a truism common to nearly all family gatherings that grandparents will frequently remark on how fast their beloved grandchildren seem to be growing up these days.

But now, instead of provoking a bout of eye-rolling at such platitudes, a new report seems to show the old folks were right: boys are indeed hitting puberty at an earlier age than they used to.

A comprehensive study by the American Academy of Pediatrics was published on Saturday. Widely seen as the best measure of the onset of puberty in American boys, it showed that they are showing signs of puberty six months to two years earlier than previously assumed.

The surprise finding builds on previous discoveries that appeared to show girls have also been developing faster. A study in 2010, which was published in the US Journal of Pediatrics, created headlines when it revealed girls were hitting puberty earlier, with some developing breasts at seven. Nor was it just in the US. Other studies have revealed the same trend in girls all over the world.

Now the AAP study, officially unveiled at a national conference in the US, is showing the same trends in boys. It primarily identified the signs of puberty as the growth in size of testicles and largely shied away from speculating on what may be causing the shift, though it did refer to changes in diet, the fact that modern children are becoming less physically active and other environmental shifts.

All that has led to speculation that weight gain might be a possible factor. It certainly might explain the earlier development among girls, as body fat is linked to production of the female hormone oestrogen. But the link might be less clear with boys. Also, it is not certain if weight gain is a trigger for puberty or simply a consequence of it…

The policy implications of the shift could be helpful when it comes to dealing with boys as they grow up, especially in school and within their own families.

Dr Frank Biro, a puberty researcher at Cincinnati children’s hospital, told the New York Times: “If kids are looking older, it means that parents should be monitoring them, because that superego doesn’t kick in until late teens or early 20s. The kids need a hand. Know what they’re doing.”

Regardless, thoughts of parents paying more and closer attention to their kids raising another ton of questions. Given the economic context we labor within – it’s more likely than ever that workingclass parents are working more part-time jobs, extra jobs, to get by. So, they’re already giving short shrift to the attention they should be paying their children on Life 101 topics, e.g., education, health, exercise, play.

Well, here’s another. I expect the usual complainers will whine about teachers and schools not doing enough. What passes for conservatives, nowadays, will whine that unemployed parents have enough time, now, to spend with their children. Meaningless to anyone who’s ever spent time dedicated to job-hunting while sinking into poverty.

Pic of the Day

Reports are coming in from battlefields across the planet that troopers previously thought to be dead are getting up from the killing fields and shambling around aimlessly.

Some have wounds so severe it’s a wonder they can even stand at all, and every one of them will attack any living being they see.

Those who choose to continue roaming the battlefields are warned to avoid contact with these zombie Death Troopers or risk joining their ranks!

Thanks, Ursarodinia