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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fewer Executions

Many posts have discussed the death penalty.

Pew reports:
With public support for the death penalty at its lowest point in more than four decades, the U.S. is on track for its fewest executions in a quarter century.
So far in 2016, 17 inmates have been executed, according to a database maintained by theDeath Penalty Information Center. Three additional executions are scheduled for this year. If all three proceed as planned, the year’s 20 executions will be the fewest since 1991, when 14 were recorded. The U.S. has executed at least 28 people in each year since 1992.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Trump and "Created Equal"

Trump is speaking in Gettysburg today.  Lincoln started the Gettysburg Address by referring to the core idea of the Declaration of Independence:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
In 2006, Trump did a video to promote a book that bore his name as coauthor. (He does not actually "write" any of his books.) At one point, he explicitly denied that proposition.
The world is not fair. You know they come with this statement "all men are created equal." Well, it sounds beautiful, and it was written by some very wonderful people and brilliant people, but it's not true because all people and all men [laughter] aren't created—now today they'd say all men and women, of course, they would have changed that statement that was made many years ago. But the fact is you have to be born and blessed with something up here [pointing to his head]. On the assumption you are, you can become very rich.
This comment occurs at about 8:25 into the video.

A Trump defender might say that he was talking about intelligence.  But Lincoln anticipated that line of reasoning and had a response:  "By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own."

Friday, October 21, 2016

Doing Research: A Session at the Rose Institute

Watch this clip from The Wire.  It is the best description of research, ever.

Lexis (Claremont ID required) 
Library Databases (Claremont ID)

General Statistics and The Census

California and General State Politics
Elections, Parties, Campaign Finance
  • Polling Report -- aggregation of national poll data
  • Gallup -- the best-known US pollster, delivering new numbers daily (for historical Gallup data, go to the Honnold Library menu, click "databases," then "Gallup Brain.")
  • Field Poll -- archive of the best-known survey in California
  • The 2014 exit poll

"America Is Great Because America Is Good"

Many posts have discussed fake quotations, including the king of fake Tocqueville lines.

Warren Throckmorton writes at Patheos:
During the debate between Clinton and Trump last night [10/19], Eric Metaxas tweeted the following:

Hillary said in passing that “America is great because America is good.” Although the quote is commonly associated with Tocqueville, it can’t be found in his works.
During the debate, Clinton did not attribute the quote to Tocqueville. However, Metaxas himself attributed that quote to Tocqueville in an advance copy of his new book If You Can Keep It. The attribution of the quote was corrected before publication.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Trump says that massive voting fraud is under way.  He is lying.  PolitiFact reports:
News 21, a national investigative reporting project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found 150 alleged cases of double voting, 56 cases of noncitizens voting, and 10 cases of voter impersonation across all elections from 2000 to 2011. Many of these allegations never led to charges, while others were acquitted or dismissed.
Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School and an expert on voter fraud, found an even smaller number: 31 credible incidents out of more than 1 billion votes cast from 2000 to 2014.
Put it in another way: More people are struck by lightning or attacked by sharks than are accused of voter fraud.
When voter fraud does occur, it’s not always intentional. Multiple studies have traced known cases not to willful deception but to clerical errors or confusion.
In 2007, The New York Times reported:
Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.
Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.
Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show.
In Miami, an assistant United States attorney said many cases there involved what were apparently mistakes by immigrants, not fraud.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Social Mobility and Grandparents

Ana Swanson writes at the Washington Post about social mobility.  Previous research found that less than a tenth of people in the bottom wealth quintile will make it into the top quintile.
Now, new research suggests that social mobility in America may be even more limited than researchers have realized. In a new paper, Joseph Ferrie of Northwestern University, Catherine Massey of the University of Michigan and Jonathan Rothbaum of the U.S. Census Bureau draw on a newly constructed dataset about American families reaching back to 1910. Unlike past studies, which have mainly compared parents and children, the new work adds data on grandparents and great-grandparents to show just how fixed the fortunes of many Americans have become.
In the past, researchers have overestimated the amount of social mobility in American society because they had a limited amount of data to study, Ferrie and his colleagues argue. Much scholarly work has been done examining how inequality has persisted between parents and children since the 1960s and beyond, but researchers have lacked data on previous generations.
That limited historical insight is a problem, says Ferrie, because families can see one-generation fluctuations in education and income. For example, suppose you have a banker whose son decided to become a poet, surrendering a huge income in favor of a more fulfilling career. But the poet’s daughter decides to go back to the family business and become a banker.
If you just looked at the poet and his daughter, you might think that economic mobility is alive and well in America -- she probably makes a lot more money than her father does. But actually, the daughter might be drawing on much older, preexisting family resources – such as financial resources, personal connections, or knowledge about how Wall Street works from her grandfather – that make it easier for her to become a banker than it is for the average kid.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Too-Independent Regulatory Agency

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ha ordered the restructuring of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Congress established the CFPB as an independent agency headed not by a multi-member commission but rather by a single Director. Because the CFPB is an independent agency headed by a single Director and not by a multi-member commission, the Director of the CFPB possesses more unilateral authority – that is, authority to take action on one’s own, subject to no check – than any single commissioner or board member in any other independent agency in the U.S. Government. Indeed, as we will explain, the Director enjoys more unilateral authority than any other officer in any of the three branches of the U.S. Government, other than the President.
At the same time, the Director of the CFPB possesses enormous power over American business, American consumers, and the overall U.S. economy. The Director unilaterally enforces 19 federal consumer protection statutes, covering everything from home finance to student loans to credit cards to banking practices. The Director alone decides what rules to issue; how to enforce, when to enforce, and against whom to enforce the law; and what sanctions and penalties to impose on violators of the law. (To be sure, judicial review serves as a constraint on illegal actions, but not on discretionary decisions within legal boundaries; therefore, subsequent judicial review of individual agency decisions has never been regarded as sufficient to excuse a structural separation of powers violation.)
That combination of power that is massive in scope, concentrated in a single person, and unaccountable to the President triggers the important constitutional question at issue
in this case.