Thursday's political stuff

A little more on that silly rumor (mentioned yesterday) that the Obama administration has started handing out free cell phones to poor people: The program they're talking about was introduced under President George W. Bush (not Obama) in order to provide a cheap phone and an hour's airtime per month to let people do things like schedule medical appointments. (Yes, it can also be used for more frivolous or even nefarious purposes -- provided they're held under an hour a month.) It's paid for by phone companies, not the government, and it's essentially an extension of a landline program introduced under President Reagan. FactCheck.org has a page about it, and Britt Smiley at New York magazine provides more details and links.

A Washington Post Wonkblog entry by Suzy Khimm posted just over a week ago makes the interesting point the marked downward trend in U.S. manufacturing job loss in the years 2001-2009 seems to have ended, with that category of jobs growing again (along with most others) over the last three years. The turnaround has not been dramatic, and indeed it has not even made up the ground lost during the depths of the Great Recession in 2009. But manufacturing jobs are growing again, and if the trend continues it's a positive sign for the U.S. economy.

An item earlier this week at Electoral-Vote.com notes that in contrast with voter impersonation (the extremely rare form of voter fraud supposedly meant to be addressed by requiring government photo IDs), vote-buying by means of mail-in ballots is likely to be a much bigger real-world problem. People wanting to influence an election can buy a willing person's absentee vote and verify they're getting what they pay for simply by looking at the ballot before it's mailed. In the states of Washington and Oregon all voting is now by mail. It's hard to prove that individual votes are being bought this way because both parties to the bribery want to keep it secret, but there is at least some statistical evidence that it's happening.

I avoid candidate debates because I tend to find them annoying and uninformative, so I didn't watch the Obama-Romney show last night. The consensus seems to be that Romney won, which at least gives him something to hold over his wife's horse, but from what I read it might be more accurate to say that Obama lost, mainly by not bringing up scads of obvious things he could have mentioned, such as jumping on various Romney falsehoods. To be fair, Obama apparently made a few bogus assertions himself, in keeping with my expectations about the quality of information heard in debates.

Finally, on a completely different front here's a nicely done ad on marriage rights from a group in Maine, where there's to be a referendum on election day:

(Updated to fix a lot of typos and clumsy phrasing. I need to learn to poorfead before I post...)

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