Looks like compulsory voting helps to make voters better politically informed?

voting in Oz

US college graduates are far better informed about basic political facts than Americans with only a high school education, according to studies by the Pew Research Center. And men tend to know more about politics than women. At the same time, the US also has infamously low voter turnout compared with the rest of the world. Recent scholarship on voting laws suggests that requiring citizens to vote would not only up turnout — it might also help boost overall political awareness…

…In 2012, just 53.6% of Americans turned out to vote, according to Pew Research Center. Compare that with 80.5% turnout in Australia, where voting has been mandatory since 1924 and failing to vote is punishable with a fine of A$20. In addition to Australia, 25 countries make national voting mandatory, including Belgium and Turkey…

But compulsory voting has the potential to do more than just increase voter turnout, according to a recent analysis by Jill Sheppard, a political scientist and survey researcher at the Australian National University. Her findings suggests that in nations that enforce mandatory voting, a wider demographic spectrum is politically informed than in other countries…

For the analysis, Sheppard uses data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, which measures political knowledge by how many correct answers a survey respondent gives to three country-specific questions. The CSES data come from 133 election studies, from 1996 and 2013, held in 47 countries.

The CSES data splits countries into four categories by voting policy: strongly enforced compulsory voting, moderately enforced, weakly enforced, and voluntary.

In countries where compulsory voting is strongly enforced, those who scored well on the political knowledge questions hailed from all educational backgrounds. Not so in other countries (including the ones where mandatory voting is less rigorously enforced), where well educated voters tended to be much better informed than everyone else.

The effect on the gap in political knowledge between men and women was illuminating as well. In general, men tended to answer more of the political knowledge questions correctly than women. However, in countries with compulsory voting, this gender gap in political knowledge was much less pronounced than in other countries.

In other words, compulsory voting somehow relates to the more even distribution of political knowledge throughout the electorate.

Sheppard’s study isn’t alone. Of course, there may be other variables as important to the process as compulsory voting – which may be an effect rather than a cause. But, this certainly merits further attention here in the GOUSA.

Of course, the likelihood of states and the federal government agreeing to mandate greater participation in one of the features of our democracy much abused by lousy choices ain’t better than the proverbial snowball in Hell.

Trump relies on anti-semitism for his message of hate and fear

Original version –> Plausible Deniability version

The meme Donald Trump put on Twitter on Saturday…was first created by a racist Twitter account.

On Saturday, his campaign tweeted an image co-opting a graphic depicting Hillary Clinton proudly looking off into the distance with the words “History made” emblazoned across it. Except this version featured a background made entirely of money and prominently included what appeared to be a red Star of David with the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” written inside…

On Monday, however, Trump tweeted that he thought it was a sheriff’s star, blah, blah. Though he took down the original tweet [above, left] and replaced it with a circle around his blather [above, right] within 2 hours of original posting. Point’s already made. Every anti-semite in America already has access to a saved copy of the original.

The earliest iteration of the questionable picture seems to have come from the Twitter account @FishBoneHead1, which tweeted the image on June 15.

From there, the image found its way to 8chan, a gurgling cesspool on the Internet that is currently devoted to celebrating the death of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. As Mic.com reported on Sunday, the image was posted there on June 22, featuring the file name HillHistory.jpg which could be a reference to the Neo-Nazi code “HH,” short for “Heil Hitler.”

The individual running the account seems proud of the work, tweeting at various news outlets to claim credit…

“We’ve been troubled by the anti-Semites and racists during this political season, and we’ve seen a number of so-called Trump supporters peddling some of the worst stereotypes all through this year,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League told The Daily Beast. Greenblatt said the organization would like to see Trump speak out against the individuals behind prejudiced images that permeate social media. “For those people who say that you can write this off, and that calling it out is simply political correctness, it’s crazy.”

You’d think that bigots and racists, the drivel wing of American conservatism might get explanations of political correctness sorted in their own writings. It was, after all, they that founded the concept — starting with the campaign to put GOD into everything from the Pledge to the American flag to our currency back in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

I lived through all of those discussions. Though it was clear at the time that Congressional-class cowards would never stand up against compromising our secular constitution. McCarthyism – the early version of Cruzism, Trumpism – was in charge of patriotic ideology. Even after the defeat of McCarthy and a half-assed resumption of the Bill of Rights, no Congress has ever had the guts to turn those public elements of our nation back to the originals.

The Supreme Court rejects restrictions on women’s abortion rights

Reverberations from the U.S. Supreme Court’s major ruling backing abortion rights were felt on Tuesday as the justices rejected bids by Mississippi and Wisconsin to revive restrictions on abortion doctors matching those struck down in Texas on Monday.

The laws in Mississippi and Wisconsin required doctors to have “admitting privileges,” a type of difficult-to-obtain formal affiliation, with a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. Both were put on hold by lower courts.

The Mississippi law would have shut down the only clinic in the state if it had gone into effect…

In addition, Alabama’s attorney general said late on Monday that his state would abandon defense of its own “admitting privileges” requirement for abortion doctors, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The laws in Texas, Mississippi, Wisconsin and Alabama are among the numerous measures enacted in conservative U.S. states that impose a variety of restrictions on abortion. But the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday in the Texas case, providing its most stout endorsement of abortion rights since 1992, could imperil a variety of these state laws.

Conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the court’s four liberals in the 5-3 decision…

Once again, sensible modern jurisprudence matches a population moving beyond ignorance. What’s left behind? True Believers and hate-filled conservatives, Republican and otherwise.

Jennifer Dalven, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the action in Mississippi, Wisconsin and Alabama is just the start of the fallout from Monday’s ruling.

“States have passed more than 1,000 restrictions on a woman’s ability to get an abortion. This means for many women the constitutional right to an abortion is still more theoretical than real and there is much more work to be done to ensure that every woman who needs an abortion can actually get one,” Dalven added.

The justices decided that the Texas law placed an undue burden on women exercising their right under the U.S. Constitution to end a pregnancy, established in the court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Reactionary politicians, careerist time-wasters, are just as convinced that delaying opportunities for free choice will suffice when and where they fail at denying individual liberty altogether. It matters not what the rationale. Such politics deserve the contempt they receive from Americans who reject superstition and ignorance.

Illegal abortions are killing women in developing countries and restrictions demanded by the USA make it worse

In developing countries, the maternal mortality rate is a staggering 239 per 100,000 women, with an estimated 303,000 women dying in 2015. One in 10 of all maternal deaths are caused by unsafe abortions; an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions are performed every year.

We know that providing access to legal terminations would stop women dying, but this remains an issue that provokes huge debate. Women who can’t access them legally still have abortions, but they have to pay bankrupting sums, often risking their lives.

Backstreet abortions are usually done in an unclean and unsafe environment. If they don’t kill women, they often put them in hospital with horrific complications, leaving them infertile, facing major abdominal surgery and enormous medical bills.

What is stopping women from accessing safe abortions? The first is restrictive laws in their own countries, which can extend to a ban…Ludicrously, this problem is compounded by the fact that countries with the most restrictive abortion laws often have the poorest family planning provision.

The second barrier is the tight regulation governing donor aid. The US has a ban on any of its funding being spent on terminations for women. The Helms amendment, a 43-year-old law, stipulates that abortions cannot be funded as a method of family planning. This means that no US foreign aid is spent on the provision of abortions or even advising or promoting abortion services for women. Recent headlines suggest that the US will not even allow its funds to be used to provide terminations for women who have been raped by Isis fighters…

We know that abortions, when performed legally, are cheap and safe. Yet the grim reality is that tens of thousands of women who die in the developing world each year from unsafe abortions do so because policymakers have decided their lives are not worth saving.

With changes in this policy, maternal mortality could be reduced for a low cost. The technology exists and is affordable. A misoprostol pill that induces an early stage abortion costs less than a dollar. This is not an issue of resources and funding, but a value judgment on what women may or may not do with their lives.

Another look back to the world of the Republican Party and the ideology of patriarchal religion held dear to the heart of 19th Century conservatives.

The United States still relies on a model generated by a religious bigot who hated equal rights for non-white Americans as much as he opposed reproductive rights for women. Jesse Helms was a racist thug kept in office beyond any reasonable function except to stand in opposition to the concept of equal opportunity for class after class of Americans. The Republican Party still honors his memory.

NM State workers falsified documents to deny food aid to poor

Five state employees testified in federal court Thursday that New Mexico Human Services Department officials falsified income information on emergency applications for people seeking welfare benefits, resulting in wrongly denied food assistance to the poorest citizens in the state.

At a daylong hearing in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Carmen Garza that stretched into the evening, the state workers said they sometimes entered false asset information on emergency requests for food assistance as a part of a state policy created just as Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration came under federal scrutiny for its high rates of denying emergency requests for aid.

The New Mexico Human Services Department is required to fulfill emergency food requests within seven days of receiving an application for such assistance. Yet the employees, testifying under oath, said they sometimes altered the requests to reflect that those applying for the assistance had up to $400 in assets that did not exist, leading to the applications being denied or delayed…

Margaret Vasquez-Padilla, a family assistance analyst with the Human Services Department who processes applications for benefits, said her superiors changed her case notes on an application for emergency food assistance by putting down that the applicant had $400.

“This has happened before,” she said when asked why she had copied her original case notes. “I needed to keep copies for myself to make sure I was not implicated.”

She and other employees said management with the department’s Income Support Division pressured them in April 2015 to make sure the state’s data on emergency food requests did not reflect that the department was failing to fulfill the requests within seven days.

The employees called themselves whistleblowers, saying they fear retaliation for speaking out about the practice.

Governor Susana Martinez is the delight of Establishment Republicans who want to run her as Vice-Presidential candidate alongside the Trumpet. Presumably to prove the GOP doesn’t wage war on Hispanics, women, who make up a significant portion of New Mexico’s poor.

In practice, her War on the Poor is all-inclusive. Republican class warfare doesn’t need much specialization. Political opportunism just naturally lends itself to discrimination.

Colorado Planned Parenthood reopens after terrorist rampage

A Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic reopened on Monday, seeing patients nearly three months after a deadly shooting rampage at the facility left three people dead and nine wounded.

“Today, we opened our doors in Colorado Springs. We didn’t back down. We didn’t disappear. We returned, stronger and with more conviction than ever,” the clinic said in a statement.

The clinic was closed on Nov. 27 following a bloody five-hour siege that police said began when a gunman opened fire with a rifle outside the building and then stormed inside. He was taken into custody by law enforcement at the scene…

The facility was resuming its work providing a range of healthcare services, including abortion, to the community of Colorado Springs, Cowart said…

The gunman accused of carrying out the attack, Robert Lewis Dear, 57, faces 179 felony counts, including charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and assault.

In a court appearance in December, he declared himself guilty and a “warrior for the babies.” He has also told a judge he distrusts his lawyers and wants to represent himself.

Like a tiny segment of Christians, Dear apparently feels he is doing the work of the God he believes in – by murdering people. Following the semantic logic of some Republican presidential candidates, that would make him a Christian terrorist.

Republicans still trying to keep folks from voting

…Even as Americans start heading to the polls for this year’s presidential primaries, laws remain in flux in a number of states — including North Carolina and Texas, where voter ID requirements are being challenged in court.

Now the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency charged with helping to improve the running of elections, has added to the confusion. And unlike most voter ID conflicts — which involve showing identification at the polls — this comes earlier in the process, when residents are first registering to vote.

The EAC has been in a long legal battle with Kansas regarding the state’s requirement that residents show proof of citizenship when they register to vote — even if they use a federal registration form, administered by the EAC. The federal form, which can be used throughout the United States as an alternative to local voter registration forms, requires individuals to swear that they are citizens. It does not require a birth certificate or other document as proof.

But late last week, the EAC’s new executive director, Brian Newby — a [Republican] former county elections official in Kansas — sent a letter to the state saying that the agency had updated the instructions on filling out that federal form to include the proof-of-citizenship requirement for Kansas residents. This came after previous EAC executive directors had refused to add the requirement.

That led one of the EAC’s three commissioners, Thomas Hicks — the only Democratic appointee — to issue a highly unusual statement Tuesday calling for Newby’s letter to be withdrawn. He said it “contradicts policy and precedent previously established by this commission,” and he called on the commission to review the matter in a public forum…

Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach’s push to require proof of citizenship is part of a larger, national fight over adding new voting restrictions, in what sponsors claim is an effort to prevent voter fraud. Opponents say it’s an effort to suppress voting rights.

Which is, of course, obvious. Nationwide, all of the Republican efforts to claim voter fraud by anyone from illegal migrant workers to Martians have failed. Here in New Mexico the state wasted $200K of taxpayer money to investigate claims by Republican officials of voter fraud by non-citizens. They came up with about a dozen people registered essentially by mistake – mistakes made by the folks registering them. Almost none of whom actually tried to vote.

But, wasting money trying to prove that states need to keep people from voting is OK as far as today’s Republican Party is concerned. If they reduce the number of potential voters who might not be old white men – they figure on another generation of maintaining whatever power they have. Especially if you add in ignorance, lousy education, gerrymandering and all the other old-fashioned methods for corrupt politicians to win and stay in power.

The tax American women pay on everything — just because they’re women

Whether you’re buying pink toys with your allowance as a kid or canes and compression socks in old age, it’s cheaper to be a man and more expensive to be a woman.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs studied nearly 800 products in 35 categories that people buy and use throughout their life — everything from onesies and baby shoes to razors and deodorant.

Products marketed to women cost more than products marketed to men 42 percent of the time. And men’s products cost more only 8 percent of the time. Over women’s lifetimes, the report concludes, the differences can easily add up to thousands of dollars.

And all of this is legal. While some jurisdictions, including New York, have laws about charging men and women different prices for similar services, there are no laws about different prices for similar products…

…The worst offender was shampoo: men paid an average of $5.68 per bottle of shampoo, while women paid $8.39, a 48 percent difference.

There is no reason for this — men’s and women’s shampoo uses the same ingredients. And although other manufacturers of other personal care products justify the difference by saying, for example, that men buy razors more frequently than women, women use more shampoo than men. The report concluded that women are asked to pay more of the cost of research and development, a major expense for cosmetics companies, than men are…

There are reasons why women’s products might cost more. Women’s clothing is cut differently; girls’ clothing, the report noted, often had more expensive trimming, such as ribbons, ruffles, or glitter.

But there’s a deeper reason, particularly for clothing and personal care products, as Danielle Kurtzleben wrote for Vox in 2014:

There’s an obvious answer here: society expects women to look a certain way. Put into economics terms, there’s a higher return on investment for beauty for women. Beauty products are becoming more popular among men, it’s true, but expensive skin cream is still optional. For women, all those trappings are more necessary.

And that matters well beyond your bank account balance, because it reinforces socially constructed notions of what it means to be a woman…

From the market side, all the reasons are nothing more than rationales. The defining characteristics of our society flow from the economics of profit. Profit rules. If you can optimize profit, increase profit between demographics you go for it. You’re a Hero of Capitalism.

We see it across a broad range of transactions. We see it most of all — ripping off women.