The "pew gap." Republicans have an overwhelming majority among church-going voters. In 2008, Barack Obama closed this "pew gap" slightly. A political action committee called the Matthew 25 Network ran advertisements on Christian radio for Obama. Nationwide, Obama received only 26 percent of the evangelical vote in 2008, but John Kerry picked up only 21 percent in 2004. And in some states, the difference was even greater, as much as 10 percent. That difference was enough to change the outcome in North Carolina, Indiana, Florida, and several other states. The Democratic National Committee is hoping for a repeat in 2012, but so far circumstances are against them. Obama's positions on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military, same-sex marriage, and the contraceptive mandate have mobilized religious conservatives. Even Douglas Kmiec, a former Reagan administration official who supported Obama in 2008 and drew the wrath of his former allies, seems to be shifting away from the president. He recently wrote, "Unwittingly, perhaps, the president has allowed his appointees to drift into the secular lane and stay there." Catholics comprised about one-quarter of the electorate in 2008. They don't vote as a solid bloc, but, according to the Associated Press, "the candidate who wins the most Catholic votes usually wins the election."
No longer gay. It used to be that falsely calling someone "gay" was defamatory in the eyes of the law. No more, at least according to one New York court. The New York Law Journal reports that "an Albany appellate court on [May 31] overturned its own precedent … abandoning a long-standing legal assumption that falsely labeling someone as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is inherently defamatory." The "prior cases categorizing statements that falsely impute homosexuality as defamatory per se are based on the flawed premise that it is shameful and disgraceful to be described as lesbian, gay, or bisexual," Justice Thomas Mercure wrote in a unanimous decision. Previously, "falsely imputing homosexuality" was among a few false allegations that were considered "per se defamatory." The others, according to the law journal, are "falsely charging someone with a serious crime, making statements that damage a person in his or her profession, suggesting that an individual has a loathsome disease, or accusing a woman of unchastity." Mercure said that including allegations of homosexuality among the group of per se defamatory characterizations "necessarily equates individuals who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual with those who have committed a 'serious crime'-one of the four established per se categories."
Train to nowhere? A new poll says California voters are no longer so keen on a proposed $68 billion bullet train project. Among the reasons: the number of lawsuits against the rail system, its cost overruns in an era of huge deficits, and a concern the train won't really solve the state's transportation problems. Fifty-five percent of voters want to see the high-speed rail bond issue that was approved in 2008 back on the ballot, and 59 percent say they would now vote against it, according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey. The survey is important because construction is scheduled to begin this year. It's also relevant because it's the latest indication that cities all across the country are having second thoughts about their rail systems. As cost overruns on almost every train project in the country sour voters, they're beginning to ask why they're spending billions on a 19th century technology to solve a 21st century transportation problem.
Dow down. Last week the Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.7 percent and is now in negative territory for the year. That motivated Reuters to take a poll of securities dealers, and the survey found that the dealers expect further quantitative easing from the U.S. Federal Reserve. Quantitative easing is the central bank's purchase of financial assets in order to create liquidity and stimulate economic activity. Conservatives criticize the practice as little more than printing money. Despite this criticism and the real dangers of the quantitative easing policy, the events of the past week will likely put pressure on the Fed to act when it meets next week. And with interest rates near zero, quantitative easing is pretty much the Fed's only option-except, of course, to do nothing, which many economists believe is the best option of all.