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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Gates Policy Initiative

Alex Gangitano at The Hill:
Bill and Melinda Gates have launched the Gates Policy Initiative to lobby for issues the billionaire couple has been working on through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Hill first reported.
The initiative will be focused on global health, global development, U.S. education and outcomes for black, Latino and rural students specifically, and efforts to move people from poverty to employment.

Rob Nabors, ex-White House director of legislative affairs under former President Obama, is the executive director of the 501(c)(4) initiative. He currently serves as a director at the Gates Foundation.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Using Smartphones to Go Online

Monica Anderson at Pew:
As the share of Americans who say they own a smartphone has increased dramatically over the past decade – from 35% in 2011 to 81% in 2019 – a new Pew Research Center survey finds that the way many people choose to go online is markedly different than in previous years.
Today, 37% of U.S. adults say they mostly use a smartphone when accessing the internet. This share has nearly doubled since 2013, when the Center last asked this question. At that point, 19% of Americans named their smartphone as their primary device for going online.1
Younger adults are especially likely to reach for their phones when going online. Fully 58% of 18-to 29-year-olds say they mostly go online through a smartphone, up from 41% in 2013. Still, this growth is evident across all age groups. For example, the share of adults ages 30 to 49 who say they mostly use a smartphone to go online has nearly doubled – from 24% in 2013 to 47% today.
These trends are part of a broader shift toward mobile technology that has changed the way people do everything from getting news to applying for jobs.
Indeed, mobile devices are not simply being used more often to go online – some Americans are forgoing traditional broadband at home altogether in favor of their smartphone. A majority of adults say they subscribe to home broadband, but about one-in-four (27%) do not. And growing shares of these non-adopters cite their mobile phone as a reason for not subscribing to these services.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Nixon and Father's Day

Danna Bell at LOC: "Father’s Day was not officially celebrated nationally until 1966 when Public Law 89-450 was enacted. This law only covered 1966. It was not until 1972 with the enactment of Public Law 92-278 that the third Sunday in June of every year was designated as Father’s Day."

Nixon's 1972 proclamation:
To have a father—to be a father—is to come very near the heart of life itself.
In fatherhood we know the elemental magic and joy of humanity. In fatherhood we even sense the divine, as the Scriptural writers did who told of all good gifts corning "down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning"—symbolism so challenging to each man who would give his own son or daughter a life of light without shadow.
Our identity in name and nature, our roots in home and family, our very standard of manhood—all this and more is the heritage our fathers share with us. It is a rich patrimony, one for which adequate thanks can hardly be offered in a lifetime, let alone a single day. Still it has long been our national custom to observe each year one special Sunday in honor of America's fathers; and from this year forward, by a joint resolution of the Congress approved April 24, 1972, that custom carries the weight of law.
This is fitting and good. Let each American make this Father's Day an occasion for renewal of the love and gratitude we bear to our fathers, increasing and enduring through all the years.
Now, Therefore, I, Richard Nixon, President of the United States of America, do hereby request that June 18, 1972, be observed as Father's Day. I direct Government officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings, and I urge all citizens to display the flag at their homes and other suitable places on that day.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of May in the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred seventy-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred ninety-sixth.
June 18, 1972 is significant for another reason:  it was the day that newspapers carried stories about the Watergate break-in, which had occurred the day before. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Tracing Back the Fake Tocqueville Quotation

Many posts have discussed the fake Tocqueville quotation, "America is great, because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."

Aryssa Damron at Check Your Fact:
Robert Tracy McKenzie, a history professor at Wheaton College, told The Daily Caller that the quote is spurious. “It has been debunked numerous times over the last 67 years or so – no serious Tocqueville scholar believes that he wrote anything remotely similar, nor does it capture the essence of what he believed about the success of democracy in the United States,” he said in an email.
The quote dates back to at least 1922, according to etymologist Barry Popik, though he found a variant appearing in print as early as the 1880s.
“I sought everywhere in vain for the secret of their success, until I entered the church,” reads this variation. “It was there, as I listened to the soul-equalizing and soul-elevating principles of the Gospel of Christ, as they fell from Sabbath to Sabbath upon the masses of the people, that I learned why America was great and free, and why France was a slave.”
McKenzie believes the last two lines originated even earlier, with a variant written by Andrew Reed and James Matheson, English ministers who wrote about their travels to the U.S. in the 1830s. “America will be great if America is good. If not, her greatness will vanish away like a morning cloud,” reads their account, published in 1835.
“Here, almost certainly, is the long-lost germ of the ‘words to live by’ that Americans have long attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville,” said McKenzie.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Polarization and Single-Party Control of Legislatures

It is the first time in more than a century that all but one state legislature is dominated by a single party. Most legislative sessions have ended or are scheduled to end in a matter of days in capitals across the nation, and Republican-held states have rushed forward with conservative agendas as those controlled by Democrats have pushed through liberal ones.

Any hope that single-party control in the states might ease the tone of political discourse has not borne out. Lopsided party dominance has not brought resignation; instead of minority parties conceding that they lack the numbers to effectively fight back, the mood has grown more tense and vitriolic.
“The whole nation is speaking about how divisive we are,” Thomas Jackson, a Democrat in the Alabama House of Representatives, told colleagues during a contentious meeting last month.

In Oregon, where Democrats control state government, Republicans boycotted sessions for several days over disagreements about taxes and gun control. In Tennessee, where Republicans are in charge, Democrats staged a walkout during a heated and chaotic budget debate, and Republicans ordered the police to go find them.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

George Washington issued what might be considered the first executive order. To commemorate the end of a bloody Revolutionary War, Washington set aside the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and prayer. His 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation was short, a mere 456 words, punctuated by references—“Almighty God,” “the Lord and Ruler of Nations,” “the great and glorious Being,” “the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be”—to a Supreme Being.
Historians were not deaf to Washington’s religious references. While the clergy and the scientists saw them as evidence of Washington’s devotion, the historians stressed the president’s precision in crafting a vocabulary that would unite the dizzying array of Protestant denominations in post-revolutionary America without alienating the small but important groups of Catholics, Jews, and freethinkers dotting the American landscape. It was precisely because he understood that Americans did not believe the same thing that Washington was scrupulous in choosing words that would be acceptable to a wide spectrum of religious groups.
In his own time, Washington’s reluctance to show his doctrinal cards dismayed his Christian co-religionists. Members of the first Presbytery of the Eastward (comprised of Presbyterian churches in Massachusetts and New Hampshire) complained to the president that the Constitution failed to mention the cardinal tenets of Christian faith: “We should not have been alone in rejoicing to have seen some explicit acknowledgement of the only true God and Jesus Christ.” Washington dodged the criticism by assuring the Presbyterians that the “path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction.”
Similarly, a week before his 1789 proclamation, Washington responded to a letter from Reverend Samuel Langdon, the president of Harvard College from 1774-1780. Langdon had implored Washington to “let all men know that you are not ashamed to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Once again, instead of affirming Christian tenets, Washington wrote back offering thanks to the generic “Author of the Universe.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


John Gramlich at Pew:
Trials are rare in the federal criminal justice system – and acquittals are even rarer.
Nearly 80,000 people were defendants in federal criminal cases in fiscal 2018, but just 2% of them went to trial. The overwhelming majority (90%) pleaded guilty instead, while the remaining 8% had their cases dismissed, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data collected by the federal judiciary.
Most defendants who did go to trial, meanwhile, were found guilty, either by a jury or judge. (Defendants can waive their right to a jury trial if they wish.)
Put another way, only 320 of 79,704 total federal defendants – fewer than 1% – went to trial and won their cases, at least in the form of an acquittal, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. These statistics include all defendants charged in U.S. district courts with felonies and serious misdemeanors, as well as some defendants charged with petty offenses. They do not include federal defendants whose cases were handled by magistrate judges, or the much broader universe of defendants in state courts. Defendants who enter pleas of “no contest” are also excluded.