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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Birthright Citizenship

The 14th Amendment says: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Columnist George Will writes of the issue of birthright citizenship, citing a piece by legal scholar Lino Graglia:
Writing in the Texas Review of Law and Politics, Graglia says this irrationality is rooted in a misunderstanding of the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof." What was this intended or understood to mean by those who wrote it in 1866 and ratified it in 1868? The authors and ratifiers could not have intended birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants because in 1868 there were and never had been any illegal immigrants because no law ever had restricted immigration.
In 1995, Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger made a different argument in congressional testimony:

As the legislative history of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment makes clear, the definitions of citizenship contained in both were intended to codify the common law and overrule Dred Scott's denial of citizenship to persons of African descent. Thus, with the three limited exceptions already noted and the additional exception of tribal Indians, the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all persons born in the United States, including children born to aliens.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 provides that "all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States." 1866 Act, § 1, 14 Stat. at 27. During the debates on the Act, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee stated that the provision defining citizenship is "merely declaratory of what the law now is," and he cited, among other authorities, a quotation from William Rawle, whose constitutional law treatise was one of the most widely respected antebellum works: "Every person born within the United States, its Territories, or districts, whether the parents are citizens or aliens, is a natural-born citizen in the sense of the Constitution, and entitled to all the rights and privileges appertaining to that capacity.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Explaining Health Care Votes

In our Congress chapter, we discuss how legislators make decisions. A recent National Journal article by Cameron Joseph offers some fascinating insights into the House vote on health care legislation:

In Sunday's vote, Democrats' decisions closely aligned to President Obama's popularity in their districts. The proportion of senior citizens living in the district also appeared to influence the decisions, but there was essentially no correlation between the vote and the percent of population in a district that lacked health insurance.....
  • 30 of the 34 Democrats who voted against the bill hail from districts wherObama's share of the vote was lower than his national average of 53 percent...
  • 24 of 125 Democrats in districts with more citizens aged 65 or older than the 12.6 percent national average opposed the health care bill. That means 20 percent of Democrats from senior-heavy districts opposed the bill...
  • 94 of 110 Democrats in districts above the 15 percent national uninsured rate supported the bill.
  • 125 of 143 Democrats in districts below the national average supported the bill.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Federalism and Eminent Domain

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill Saturday authorizing Utah to file eminent domain proceedings against federally owned land, primarily to gain access to state-owned parcels to be able to drill where trucks and pipelines now can't reach.Utah's new law authorizing it to condemn and take control of some federal lands isn't likely to prevail, experts say.

In signing the legislation this weekend, Gov. Herbert is appealing to long-simmering ire in the West over federal control of natural resources at a time of escalating tension between some states and the White House.

The Utah law would seem to fall afoul of the Constitution's supremacy clause. As Justice Marshall explained in McCulloch v. Maryland:

The United States have, and must have, property locally existing in all the states; and may the states impose on this property, whether real or personal, such taxes as they please? Can they tax proceedings in the federal courts? If so, they can expel those judicatures from the states.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Quotations: Let the Reader Beware

Yesterday's post involved false Lincoln quotations. Today is a followup, less about the substance of politics than the process of research. Whatever the field, it is important to doublecheck your facts -- a misquotation provides an example of what can go when people get sloppy about it. An excellent book on dubious quotations is The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes. A short excerpt:

Quotes without citations should be treated with the utmost suspicion. When a quotation routinely shows up in compilations with no source, there probably is none. “Nice guys finish last,” for example, spent so many decades associated with Leo Durocher that this attribution took on its own credibility, despite the fact that no one knew when or where Durocher had said this (because he hadn’t). Despite copious searching, the origins of the quotation most associated with Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,” remain a mystery. When a source is cited for that quotation, it is always secondary. This is a risky type of ascription. Such sources sometimes cite yet another source that is one or more steps removed from a quotation’s point of origin.

Even when a primary source is cited in a secondary work, without examining that material one cannot be confident that the citation is accurate. Wrong chapters of books and inaccurate page numbers are routinely referenced, and wording is often garbled. Alternatively, a quotation will show up where it’s said to have appeared, but prove to have no reliable citation, or none at all. In such cases it’s the uninformed citing the ill informed. Phantom citations appear regularly, even routinely, and even in reputable works of reference.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

False Quotations

A unique feature of our textbook is the "Myths and Misinformation" box that appears in most chapters. Myths and misinformation often take the form of false quotations -- words that speakers or writers wrongly attribute to famous people. In his address to the House Democratic Caucus a week ago, President Obama said:
I have the great pleasure of having a really nice library at the White House. And I was tooling through some of the writings of some previous Presidents and I came upon this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”
Lincoln never wrote those words. In an article on the NPR website, I explain that the president's speechwriter made an all-too-frequent error in using a Lincoln "quotation" without checking it. Public figures of all kinds -- Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives -- have have passed along counterfeit Lincoln, usually without knowing it. President Reagan used the same 'bound to be true" line several times.

For anyone interested in following up, the Lincoln papers are searchable at these sites:
Nothing like the “bound to be true" line appears. So who actually invented the line? Apparently, it was someone writing in the early 20th century:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tax Code Complexity

In our economic policy chapter, we explain that the complexity of the tax code reflects the complexity of the economy. Still, it is a challenge both for citizenship (it is hard to comply with the law) and deliberation (legislators do not fully comprehend the law that they are amending). In an earlier post, we noted that the IRS Commissioner does not do his own taxes. The Daily Caller finds the same for those who write the tax laws:
Rep. Xavier Becerra, a top Democrat on the Ways & Means Committee that was holding the hearing, is keeping a watchful eye on those tax preparer services, who he says sometimes fleece unwitting customers. “Americans who could fill out a simple [tax forms] are being charged hundreds of dollars to do what they” could on their own, he said.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Social Security in the Red

In our chapters on social policy and economic policy, we discuss social security. The New York Times reports that the system's problem's are accelerating:

The bursting of the real estate bubble and the ensuing recession have hurt jobs, home prices and now Social Security.

This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, said that while the Congressional projection would probably be borne out, the change would have no effect on benefits in 2010 and retirees would keep receiving their checks as usual.

The problem, he said, is that payments have risen more than expected during the downturn, because jobs disappeared and people applied for benefits sooner than they had planned. At the same time, the program’s revenue has fallen sharply, because there are fewer paychecks to tax.

The system does not have to start paying in IOUs right now.

Although Social Security is often said to have a “trust fund,” the term really serves as an accounting device, to track the pay-as-you-go program’s revenue and outlays over time. Its so-called balance is, in fact, a history of its vast cash flows: the sum of all of its revenue in the past, minus all of its outlays. The balance is currently about $2.5 trillion because after the early 1980s the program had surplus revenue, year after year.

Last year, CBO projected that the "trust fund" would hit zero in the year 2043 -- well before most of today's college students will reach retirement age.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Polls on Health Bill

A new CBS poll offers a mixed picture of public reaction to the health bill.
The poll finds that 62 percent want Congressional Republicans to keep challenging the bill, while 33 percent say they should not do so. Nearly nine in ten Republicans and two in three independents want the GOP to keep challenging. Even 41 percent of Democrats support continued challenges.
According to the poll, support for the legislation has increased by five points, to 42 percent, but the basic pattern of opinion remains mostly the same.
Forty-six percent say they disapprove, including 32 percent who strongly disapprove. Those numbers have barely moved since before the bill was signed. Americans also did not significantly change their views on the impact of the bill. Thirty percent still say it will make the health care system better, while 33 percent say it will make the system worse.

They have also held relatively firm in their perceptions of how the bill will effect [sic] them. Sixteen percent say the bill will "mostly help," while 35 percent say it will "mostly hurt." Both of those numbers are down slightly from before the vote. Forty-three percent now say the bill will have "no effect," an increase of eight points.
And according to a Gallup Poll, support for the bill is strongest among groups least likely to vote and opposition is greatest among those most likely to vote.
While 49% of Americans overall say Congress' passing healthcare reform is a "good thing," support is greater among Americans who currently lack health insurance. Passage of the bill also enjoys broad support among two of the populations least likely to have health insurance: younger adults and adults living in lower-income households. Older, higher-income, and insured Americans have more mixed reactions. The lone exception is seniors, 54% of whom see passage of the bill as a negative.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Deliberation, Citizenship, New Media, and Health Care

At TechPresident, Micah Sifry argues that the Internet fostered deliberation and active citizenship during the health care debate:
What was the internet's role?
1. It forced the process much more into the open. For better and for worse, the sausage-making process is now much more transparent. As Nancy pointed out last week, without a formal change in the rules, Congress is starting to post major bills online 72 hours before a vote. This is what happens when you have many more eyes watching. Any attempt by the White House to repeat the Clinton process of crafting a bill over months of secret negotiations would have blown up in its face. Yes, there were still many back-room deals, from the Billy Tauzin-PHrMA deal to the "Cornhusker hustle" and the "Louisiana Purchase" but we know about them, don't we?
2. The relatively open process fueled a lot of passionate engagement on all sides, with rightwing blogs, GOP outfits like Freedom Works and Tea Party protesters along with leftwing blogs, Democratic efforts like HCAN and OFA, and MoveOn and the PCCC all turbocharging their efforts by using the latest tools for connecting, coordinating, collaborating, raising money, and moving messages and troops. The overall effect was for many more voices to speak effectively in the process. It appears that most of these voices tended to make the discussion more polarized, but I think that may be an oversimplification. MoveOn, for example, may have worked for most of last year to push the debate to the left, but in the last few weeks, after its membership voted overwhelmingly to support Obama's approach, it helped rally progressive activists to support the bill.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Citizenship Case Before the Court

The New York Times reports:
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide if mothers and fathers may be treated differently in determining whether their children may claim American citizenship.
The case involves Ruben Flores-Villar, who was born in Tijuana, Mexico, but was raised by his father and grandmother, both American citizens, in San Diego. His mother was Mexican, and his parents were not married.

Mr. Flores-Villar tried to avoid deportation by claiming American citizenship. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, rejected that claim under a law that spelled out different requirements for mothers and fathers whose children were born abroad and out of wedlock to a partner who was not an American citizen.

The law, since amended, allowed fathers to transmit citizenship to their children only if the fathers had lived in the United States before the child was born for a total of 10 years, five of them after age 14. Mothers were required to have lived in the United States for a year before their child was born. (The amended law kept the general system but shortened the residency requirement for fathers.)

The Immigration Prof Blog has more detail.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Deliberation and Transparency

In our chapter on bureaucracy and elsewhere, we note the tension between the desire for openness in government and the need for frank deliberation. In this light, AP reports:
One year into its promise of greater government transparency, the Obama administration is more often citing exceptions to the nation's open records law to withhold federal records even as the number of requests for information decline, according to a review byThe Associated Press of agency audits about the Freedom of Information Act.

Among the most frequently cited reasons for keeping records secret: one that Obama specifically told agencies to stop using so frequently. The Freedom of Information Act exception, known as the "deliberative process" exemption, lets the government withhold records that describe its decision-making behind the scenes.

Obama's directive, memorialized in written instructions from the Justice Department, appears to have been widely ignored.

Major agencies cited the exemption at least 70,779 times during the 2009 budget year, up from 47,395 times during President George W. Bush's final full budget year, according to annual reports filed by federal agencies. Obama was president for nine months in the 2009 period.

Also see a report from the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Religion, Politics, and Health Care Legislation

Our book points out the political significance of religion in American politics. Across the ideological spectrum and the party divide, American leaders have longed invoked religious themes. The latest example is Speaker Pelosi:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Citizenship on C-SPAN

The C-SPAN video archives are now online. Among the 23 years' worth of programs is a naturalization ceremony for active-duty military:

President Bush gave a similar address three years earlier:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Lively Exchange on the Revolution and Founding

Conrad Black, the Canadian publisher (and currently a guest of the US federal penal system) writes of the American Revolution and Founding:
The colonists should certainly have paid something for the British efforts on their behalf, and “no taxation without representation” and the Boston Tea Party and so forth were essentially a masterly spin job on a rather grubby contest about taxes.

In its early years, the U.S. had no more civil liberties than Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and parts of Scandinavia. About 15 percent of its population were slaves and, in the Electoral College, the slaveholding states were accorded bonus electoral votes representing 60 percent of the slaves, so the voters in free states were comparatively disadvantaged. (If America had stayed in the British Empire for five years beyond the death of Jefferson and John Adams, the British would have abolished slavery for them and the country would have been spared the 700,000 dead of the Civil War.
Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg replies:
As for America being on the wrong side of a "grubby contest" about taxes, Edmund Burke — the founding father of modern conservatism, on both sides of the pond, and a contemporary observer — didn't see it that way. In his speech "On American Taxation" Burke came out on America's side. While Burke had hoped for reconciliation with the British in America, he always recognized the decency and justice of the American cause — a marked contrast with Burke's views on the evils of the French Revolution. During the war, Burke was not only dismayed that his German-descended king was waging war against the "American English" with the "the hireling sword of German boors and vassals," he grew convinced that American victory was the only way to ensure the survival of liberty in Britain. If the British defeated the colonists, Burke feared, than Whiggish principles would be in mortal danger at home as well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

News Media and Deliberation

A new report raises concerns about the media's capacity to strengthen deliberation with solid information instead of opinion:
The notion that the news media are shrinking is mistaken. Reportorial journalism is getting smaller, but the commentary and discussion aspect of media, which adds analysis, passion and agenda shaping, is growing — in cable, radio, social media, blogs and elsewhere. For all the robust activity there, however, the numbers still suggest that these new media are largely filled with debate dependent on the shrinking base of reporting that began in the old media. Our ongoing analysis of more than a million blogs and social media sites, for instance, finds that 80% of the links are to U.S. legacy media. The only old media sector with growing audience numbers is cable, a place where the lion’s share of resources are spent on opinionated hosts. One result may be the rising numbers in polling data that show 72% of Americans feel now most news sources are biased in their coverage and 70% feel overwhelmed rather than informed by the amount of news and information they see. Quantitatively, argument rather than expanding information is the growing share of media people are exposed to today.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Education and Citizenship

In The Guardian, the vice chancellor of a British university writes of different attitudes toward higher education.

Buried deep in the psyche of British (certainly English) higher education there are still residues of noblesse oblige and its historical role of co-opting the best of the brightest into the ruling class. So widening participation is all very well at the margins. But it becomes a threat if it moves centre-stage.

The contrast with the US is stark. Going to college is part of being American; it has a direct link through to the founding values of the republic. So big books like Amy Gutmann's Democratic Education get written – and noticed. The fact that she is now president of the University of Pennsylvania, a world-class research university, (and was provost at Princeton) only emphasises how wide the Atlantic is.

"By teaching the skills and virtues of deliberation among citizens," wrote Gutmann in 1995, "schools can contribute to bringing a democracy closer to its own ideal."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Chamber

Our interest groups chapter discusses trade associations. Tom Hamburger of McClatchy-Tribune reports on the growing significance of a key trade group, the US Chamber of Commerce.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is building a large-scale grass-roots political operation that has begun to rival those of the major political parties, funded by record-setting amounts of money raised from corporations and wealthy individuals.

The chamber has signed up some 6 million individuals who are not chamber members and has begun asking them to help with lobbying and, soon, with get-out-the-vote efforts in upcoming congressional campaigns.

See the link to the Friends of the U.S. Chamber

Those who welcome this development would say that it encourages active citizenship and grassroots deliberation. Skeptics would say that it strengthens business at the expense of unions and consumers.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Getting Out the Vote in Texas

Political scientist James Gimpel writes that Texas Governor Rick Perry relied on political science in his successful 2010 primary campaign.
Dave Carney, the campaign’s general consultant, for example, is confident enough to be a skeptic of the claims and traditions of the consulting world. He values hard-headed research over guesswork, having digested Alan Gerber and Donald Green’s Get Out the Vote prior to the 2006 campaign. Intrigued by their randomized experiments on the efficacy of campaign tactics, but wanting more, he called the Yale professors, along with Daron Shaw (University of Texas) and myself, to Austin in 2005. Over a series of months, he called for a series of experiments on messaging, campaign fundraising and various modes of campaign outreach, including direct mail and phone banks. The series of tests generally revealed that impersonal modes of contact, such as direct mail and automated calls, while seemingly inexpensive, were worthless.

Early television ad buys, even multi-million dollar ones, were a waste because they simply didn’t stick given that people were not yet in the market for political information. The returns from direct-mail fundraising efforts, at least in 2006, were modest, at best. Carney and other Perry advisers reasoned that many conventional campaign tactics were being used out of force of habit — because that’s the way campaigns have always been done — but not because they worked. Vendors and media buyers were mostly interested in making money, not in winning campaigns.

Taking these lessons to heart, in 2009 and 2010 they trimmed some of these ineffective strategies out of their campaign toolkit, and moved in a different direction. Based on the mounting evidence for the effectiveness of personal contact, they invested in building a field operation of unprecedented size that would eventually situate nearly 40,000 Perry Home Headquarters locations across the state, each charged with mobilizing a targeted number of voters. This was about ten times the number of volunteers they had activated during the 2006 campaign.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Filibuster and Deliberation

The Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group, has a new report on the filibuster titled "From Deliberation to Dysfunction: It is Time for Procedural Reform in the U.S. Senate." The report says:
While it is unlikely the Senate will abandon the filibuster, it is clear that the rules governing the use of the filibuster must change if the body is to be prevented from becoming a more serious impediment to competent governance. The chaotic, hit-or-miss process in which rather mundane matters are debated at great length while more important issues are slipped past the full Senate without significant debate or opportunity for amendment turns the concept of deliberation on its head.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A National ID Card?

The Wall Street Journal reports that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and colleagues are working on changes in immigration law that might include a national identification card:

The biggest objections to the biometric cards may come from privacy advocates, who fear they would become de facto national ID cards that enable the government to track citizens.

"It is fundamentally a massive invasion of people's privacy," said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "We're not only talking about fingerprinting every American, treating ordinary Americans like criminals in order to work. We're also talking about a card that would quickly spread from work to voting to travel to pretty much every aspect of American life that requires identification."

Mr. Graham says he respects those concerns but disagrees. "We've all got Social Security cards," he said. "They're just easily tampered with. Make them tamper-proof. That's all I'm saying."

More broadly, the proposal might clash with the American individualism that we describe in our chapter on civic culture. And some religious activists worry that biometric identification cards are reminiscent of Revelation 13:17: "And that no man might buy or sell, save that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Federalism and Health Insurance

The health care debate involves tough questions about federalism. The New York Times reports:
At the heart of President Obama’s drive to rein in health costs is a proposal for federal review and regulation of health insurance premiums, with a new agency empowered to block excessive rate increases.

State officials are leery of the proposal, which raises a host of questions: How would Congress define “excessive”? How would the new federal power relate to state insurance regulation?

The proposal has great political appeal. But experts see a serious potential problem: Federal officials will focus on holding down premiums while state officials focus on the solvency of insurers, the ultimate consumer protection.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Governor Paterson in Church

A major theme of our book is the role of religion in American politics. Contrary to myth, that role extends far beyond Christian conservatives. For instance, New York's Democratic governor, David Paterson, went to a church yesterday to discuss the ethics controversy that threatens his tenure in office. The New York Times reports:

In his remarks, Mr. Paterson cast his struggles in religious terms. “I shouldn’t be listening to the god of the media,” he said. “I shouldn’t be listening to the god of polls. I shouldn’t be listening to the god of popularity. I shouldn’t be listening to people who are going in a path, rather than leading a path. I should be listening to my own heart.” He added, “If you know the truth, and you want to serve God, then stand before him no matter what happens.”

Mr. Paterson, who is Roman Catholic, rarely makes public appearances at churches, a Sunday ritual for many other elected officials. His visit to the politically influential Cornerstone congregation, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, will be followed Monday by a town hall meeting in Downtown Brooklyn to discuss the state budget gap.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, a Cornerstone parishioner who attended the Sunday service, said, “I think during difficult times, many individuals turn to the church to be strengthened while in the middle of the storm.”

A local TV report on the appearance:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

An American in al Qaeda

As of Sunday night, there were conflicting reports on whether Adam Gadahn, an American-born spokesman for al Qaeda, was actually under arrest. Gadahn is the first American to face treason charges since the Second World War era, and the charges carry a possible death penalty.

The story touches on two points from our textbook.

First, as we explain in the mass media chapter, news involves uncertainty. Reporters often err, especially in the early stages of a breaking story.

Second, as the citizenship chapter describes, it is possible to renounce citizenship. But the State Department explains that any American who wants to renounce citizenship must
  1. appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer,
  2. in a foreign country (normally at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate); and
  3. sign an oath of renunciation

Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no legal effect. [emphasis added]

The last point is important. Gadahn appeared in a video ripping up his passport and saying he was renouncing his citizenship. But because he did not meet the specified conditions, what he did on the video did not count. He is still an American citizen, so the charges remain in effect.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Economics, Mortgages, and Civic Virtue

In our chapter on economic policy, we discuss how mortgage defaults helped bring about the financial turmoil of recent years. But while things are bad, they could be much worse. Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute writes:
The puzzling fact is that Americans have not walked away from their debts in large numbers--at least so far. Only about 10 percent of those with negative equity have defaulted. Why have so few done the "economically rational" thing? And is the wave still coming, or is there something about Americans that makes them unwilling to default, even when it is in their immediate interest to do so?


Economists Luigi Guiso, Paola Sapienza, and Luigi Zingales set out to better understand the drivers of strategic de fault, using a novel approach for econ omists: They surveyed homeowners about their willingness to default on their mortgages under a number of hypo­thetical circumstances.

The results were startling. Fully 80 percent of individuals said they thought it would be "morally wrong" to strategically default on their mortgages. The economists correlated these responses with default behavior and found that moral beliefs indeed influence decisions: Individuals were 77 percent less likely to declare their intention to de fault if they said it would be morally wrong to do so.

The moral constraint is far from perfect: if people see their neighbors getting away with defaulting , they are more likely to do so themselves. This mix of virtue and vice would not have surprised Madison.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Deficit and Debt

In our chapter on economic policy, we discuss the deficit and the debt. New figures from the Congressional Budget Office are not encouraging. From CBO's letter to Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chair of the Appropriations Committee:
Under the President’s budget, debt held by the public would grow from $7.5 trillion (53 percent of GDP) at the end of 2009 to $20.3 trillion (90 percent of GDP) at the end of 2020. As a result, net interest would more than quadruple between 2010 and 2020 in nominal dollars (without an adjustment for inflation); it would expand from 1.4 percent of GDP in 2010 to 4.1 percent in 2020.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Blogging, Twittering, and Teaching: Online Resources in the Classroom

A presentation at the annual convention of the Texas Community College Teachers Association, Houston, March 5, 2010.

Uses for class blogs:
  • To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
  • To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
  • To post relevant news items or videos.
Examples of class blogs:

The Claremont Legislative Simulation

Interactive sites

One relevant video involved a wildfire and its lessons for federalism.

Responsibilities of Citizenship

In our chapters on citizenship and civic culture, we emphasize responsibilities. ABC journalist Jeffrey Kofman, a native of Canada, recently became an American and addressed this point to fellow newly-naturalized citizens:

But let me remind you on this important day, that the privileges we have just earned come with responsibility.

• You can now vote. Freedom in this country means you don’t have to. But having worked this hard to become an American citizen, I believe it would be a terrible waste to suddenly take it for granted. And so I challenge all of you to vote in every election you are eligible. Whether it is city, state or federal. I am not going to tell you who to vote for, which party to vote for. That is for you to decide. But do your homework. Do your duty.

• With Freedom Comes yet another responsibility and now that you are American citizens you have a special duty to remember it. You know that it is the laws of the land that make it possible for all of us live in harmony. There is no excuse for breaking those laws or pushing the boundaries to get ahead.

• And there’s one more aspect of Freedom that I want to emphasize because it worries me in this country. Please, remember that your freedom and mine are only valuable if they respect the freedom of others. I worry that, especially when it comes to politics, people have stopped listening to different opinions, stopped respecting the right to different opinions. Whatever your political views, your religious views, your views on the President, the wars overseas, abortion, gays in the military, please remember that Freedom requires that we listen to each other, respect each other and seek common ground that reflects the intentions of the Founding Fathers of this country. Now that you and I are American citizens, we too can work to respect the Freedom of all Americans and the right to Freedom of all people on this earth.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

News: Portable, Personalized, Participatory

Our chapter on mass media looks at new technological developments, and a recent study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism provide fresh information:
The process Americans use to get news is based on foraging and opportunism. They seem to access news when the spirit moves them or they have a chance to check up on headlines. At the same time, gathering the news is not entirely an open-ended exploration for consumers, even online where there are limitless possibilities for exploring news. While online, most people say they use between two and five online news sources and 65% say they do not have a single favorite website for news. Some 21% say they routinely rely on just one site for their news and information.

In this new multi-platform media environment, people’s relationship to news is becoming portable, personalized, and participatory. These new metrics stand out:

  • Portable: 33% of cell phone owners now access news on their cell phones.
  • Personalized: 28% of internet users have customized their home page to include news from sources and on topics that particularly interest them.
  • Participatory: 37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Broadband and Deliberation

In our chapters on mass media and public opinion and participation, we discuss ways in which new technology can foster deliberation. On March 17, the Federal Communications Commission will unveil its National Broadband Plan, a set of proposals for expanding access to high-speed Internet. FCC is holding regional forums on the plan. On Monday Eugene Huang, director of government performance and civic engagement for the National Broadband Plan, spoke at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT News reports:
When he turned to the topic of how government can draw citizens into the deliberative process, rather than simply providing them with better information, Huang became a little more vague: “Government is just beginning to think about these types of issues,” he acknowledged. But in thinking about how to use digital tools to directly engage the citizenry, he said, the government is using digital tools to directly engage the citizenry. The White House’s Open Government Initiative, Huang said, has used what he described as “public brainstorming blogs, a wiki, and a collaborative drafting tool” to solicit public participation in determining just what its project should be.
The full text of his remarks is here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lieutenant Governor

One feature of American federalism is the variation among state government structures. Consider the office of lieutenant governor, who succeeds to the governorship in case the incumbent leaves early. In California, there has been infighting over filling a vacancy in the job. Some legislators have said it is not significant enough to fight over, and they have proposed abolishing it. There are similar movements afoot in Illinois and Louisiana. Stateline reports:

Still, history is firmly against those who want to get rid of the lieutenant governorships. Only four states — Alabama, Florida, Maryland and Mississippi — have ever done away with the position, according to the National Lieutenant Governors Association. All four reinstated the post. Maryland was the last to do so, in 1970, shortly after Republican Spiro Agnew left the governor’s office to become Richard Nixon’s vice president and the Maryland Legislature replaced Agnew with House Speaker Marvin Mandel, a Democrat.

In fact, all of the proposals for eliminating the lieutenant governorship face significant obstacles. Elsewhere, states seem to be moving in the opposite direction, including New Jersey where its first-ever lieutenant governor took office in January. The new post ends a practice in which the president of the state Senate took over during a gubernatorial vacancy. New Jersey had two vacancies in the governor’s office over the last decade, raising the public’s awareness of the lack of a lieutenant governor. It especially became apparent during one week in January 2002, when three different people served as acting governor.

Forty-three states now elect a lieutenant governor on the ballot. Plus, state senators in Tennessee and West Virginia choose a president who also bears the title of lieutenant governor. The only states without lieutenant governors are Arizona, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Wyoming. According to the NLGA, 20 lieutenant governors have taken the helm of their states since 2000.

Alaska has an unusual system for filling vacancies. Subject to legislative approval, the governor may designate someone to be third in line, who will move up to the lieutenant governorship in case its occupant becomes governor. When Governor Sarah Palin resigned, Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell succeeded her, and the head of the department of military and veterans affairs succeeded him. Stateline adds: "Both Parnell and Campbell are running to keep their new posts in this year’s elections, but their fates are not connected. Like in 17 other states, party voters decide the races separately, although the victors of the Republican primary in August will run as a team in November."