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Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Soldier and a Citizen

KENS in San Antonio reports:
Even though she's served in the Army for three years, Dulce Vazquez couldn't call herself an American citizen until today. "I've been wearing this uniform for three years but today I will finally feel like I'm a part of something, part of this great country of ours," Vazquez said Thursday morning following her naturalization ceremony. Vazquez came to the United States from Mexico at the age of 2. She joined the Army at 17. At 19, she went overseas to serve in Operation Enduring Freedom and returned home last November. She said serving in Iraq changed her life and has made her proud to be an American. since 2002, 78,000 military members have become U.S. citizens 

Twitter Usage

Previous posts have discussed the increasing role of Twitter in political communication.The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports:
As of February 2012, some 15% of online adults use Twitter, and 8% do so on a typical day. Overall Twitter adoption reamins steady, as the 15% of online adults who use Twitter is similar to the 13% of such adults who did so in May 2011. At the same time, the proportion of online adults who use Twitter on a typical day has doubled since May 2011 and has quadrupled since late 2010—at that point just 2% of online adults used Twitter on a typical day. The rise of smartphones might account for some of the uptick in usage because smartphone users are particularly likely to be using Twitter.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Train to Nowhere

Policies do not always live up to expectations.  One example is California's plan for a high-speed rail system, which now seems likely to be far slower and more expensive than voters thought when they approved it. CNN reports:


Asian Americans and Affirmative Action

Previous posts have discussed the role of affirmative action in civil rights policy.  Inside Higher Ed reports on a development in the Fisher case:
A brief filed Tuesday with the U.S. Supreme Court seeks to shake up the legal and political calculus of a case that could determine the constitutionality of programs in which colleges consider the race or ethnicity of applicants. In the brief, four Asian-American organizations call on the justices to bar all race-conscious admissions decisions, arguing that race-neutral policies are the only way for Asian-American applicants to get a fair shake.
Much of the discussion of the case has focused on policies that help black and Latino applicants. And the suit that has reached the U.S. Supreme Court was filed on behalf of a white woman, Abigail Fisher, who was rejected by the University of Texas at Austin.
But the new brief, along with one recently filed on behalf of Fisher, say that the policy at Texas and similar policies elsewhere hurt Asian-American applicants, not just white applicants. This view runs counter to the opinion of many Asian-American groups that have consistently backed affirmative action programs such as those in place at Texas.
The brief filed Tuesday on behalf of Asian-American groups Tuesday focused less on the Texas admissions policy than on the consideration of race generally in college admissions. "Admission to the nation’s top universities and colleges is a zero-sum proposition. As aspiring applicants capable of graduating from these institutions outnumber available seats, the utilization of race as a 'plus factor' for some inexorably applies race as a 'minus factor' against those on the other side of the equation. Particularly hard-hit are Asian-American students, who demonstrate academic excellence at disproportionately high rates but often find the value of their work discounted on account of either their race, or nebulous criteria alluding to it," says the brief.
It was filed on behalf of the 80-20 National Asian-American Educational Foundation, the National Federation of Indian American Associations, the Indian American Forum for Political Education, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. (The latter group focuses on discrimination against Jewish Americans, and the brief argues that today's admissions policies have the same impact on Asian-American applicants as previous generations' policies had on Jewish applicants.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Young Marines

Daniel de Vise writes at The Washington Post:
Bob Nobles and Cornell Wright might not have a chance to serve their country when they are adults. No matter: They are serving it now.
“Good morning, Young Marines,” barked 1st Sgt. Vivian Price-Butler, greeting Bob and Cornell and eight other boys Friday morning in her small classroom at Kennedy Krieger High School.

“Good morning, First Sergeant,” they replied in unison, standing straight and still.
The Young Marines is an education and service program reaching 10,000 youths around the nation and overseas. Of its more than 300 units, only one is dedicated to students with special needs.
Founded in 1993, the Kennedy Krieger program serves 24 students at a high school for children who cannot be accommodated in traditional schools. Bob, a 16-year-old sophomore from New Windsor, has autism. Cornell, a 17-year-old junior from Glendale, has an intellectual disability. Other students have cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or brain injuries.
Price-Butler, known affectionately as First Sergeant around the Baltimore school, is not a trained teacher. Yet, 10 or 20 years from now, she is the Kennedy Krieger educator most likely to be getting e-mails and baby pictures from Bob and Cornell and the other Young Marines.

Using the Web Against Pirates

The Navy Times reports:

Pirates may run, but they won’t be able to hide from a new Web-based application that can track their movements on a global scale.
Development is underway on a computer program that will help sailors detect pirate ships, illegal fishing vessels, drug smugglers, arms traffickers and other bad guys in the ocean, Navy officials announced May 14. It could be used anywhere there is an Internet connection.
The application will combine automated vessel detection with behavioral analysis, said John Stastny, an engineer with the International Collaborative Development for Enhanced Maritime Domain Awareness, or ICODE MDA, who is helping to design it.
Doing this will allow sailors to identify and avoid ships engaging in suspicious at-sea maneuvers, which could signal the presence of pirates.
So, what exactly constitutes pirate behavior? That’s yet to come.
Stastny said the goal is to look at data to determine what kind of behavior is typical for a regular ship versus a pirate ship.
“That can help us develop models for what pirates are likely to do,” he explained.
The program will operate like iGoogle, an online dashboard that accommodates a user’s preferences and displays personalized data for local weather, email and news. But for this dashboard, the menu will focus on locating pirates.
“You’re going to have a base map that will show anomalies that are related to the piracy problem and a widget that shows which are high-risk vessels or high-risk areas for piracy today,” Stastny said.

Online Media and Political Campaign Targeting

At AP, Beth Fouhy explains how campaigns are using microtargeting to spot potential voter, contributors, or volunteers.
Online searches offer campaigns the simplest form of targeted advertising. When a voter searches on a candidate's name or a keyword that indicates interest in that candidate, campaigns will place ads next to the search.
The ads offer a great return on investment because the campaign only has to pay for the ad if the voter actually clicks on it. By layering additional data about the person who clicked on the ad, such as their gender or geographic location, the campaign can tailor a very specific message to get that person's attention.
The campaigns also use microtargeting to determine the placement of display ads, the small boxes that appear on websites and follow users around as they browse the Internet.
The campaigns might choose specific sites that are likely to attract voters sympathetic to their candidate. The Romney team might place a display ad on a conservative news website, while Obama might do so on a site popular with college students.
Retargeting, or reaching out to someone who has indicated an interest in a candidate online but has not yet taken an action, is another way campaigns use display ads to reach potential supporters. People who have visited a candidate's website but left the site without signing up or making a contribution might start seeing display ads from the campaign urging them to do so.
The video-sharing site YouTube has become a popular site for campaign advertising as more people migrate from watching live television to viewing shows and other videos online. 
A voter who has indicated an interest in a candidate and then views a video on YouTube is likely to see a 15- or 30-second campaign ad, called a pre-roll, pop up. A box will appear after 5 seconds asking if the person wants to continue viewing the ad. Campaigns only pay for ads the viewer watches through to completion.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Problems of the Survey Research Profession

News organizations are also producers of survey research or clients of organizations that do. As my colleagues in the Project for Excellence in Journalism have documented, journalism does not have an audience problem - it has a money problem. Even as the audience for mainstream news organizations has remained stable or even grown, revenues have plummeted
Another problem we confront is that financial pressures in higher education have led to the closing of some university-based survey research centers, and significant challenges to those that remain in business. By all accounts, most of the centers are responding well to these challenges, but not all are. As higher education has had to retrench due to declining state support and other pressures, centers have increasingly become dependent on external funding.
Even if the ACS [the Census Bureau's American Community Survey] is not killed, deep cuts in the bureau's budget loom, along with the elimination of the mandatory requirement for the ACS. If these happen, data quality will suffer. Budget cuts also are threatening other projects at Census, and in the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis
If we edge away from the probability model as we explore the new frontier, we must keep an eye on how well we are representing populations that aren't as present on the internet, Facebook, Twitter or the commercial and credit databases that can be mined for insights.
In research that my colleagues at the Pew Internet and American Life Project did with Verba and his colleagues, online forms of participation were found to increase the percentage of young people engaged in certain political acts. But the broader takeaway was that the same biases we see in traditional outlets of participation - voting, working for a campaign, communicating with public officials - are still present online. Even though more young people are doing these things, the better educated and more affluent are overrepresented among the activists. As a consequence, substituting analysis of online political participation for survey-based measures will come with a bias toward the better educated and more affluent.

Social Media and Memorial Day

USA Today reports:
Memorial Day is not just unforgettable: Thanks to Facebook it's also inescapable.

Salutes to troops past and present will be showing up every few seconds, this weekend, if the pace of posting is anything like Memorial Day 2011. Experts and everyday Facebook users say the social media Goliath has rearranged our thinking of how to mark this and every other holiday.
Few Americans still mark the original way to celebrate Memorial Day with a visit to a veteran's grave. TheDepartment of Veterans Affairs predicts more than 100,000 visitors to National Cemeteries this Monday, about the same as 2011. But there are 117 events for real time visits listed on the National Cemeteries Facebook Page, which has 3,389 likes.
Social media aren't necessarily to blame for the shift in observance. Given the mobile society, few people live near their own loved ones' graves any more.
Kate Pitrone writes at First Things:
I have heard it said that if you do not have family, close family, serving in the military, then your attitude toward government, and especially U.S. involvement in war and military conflict, will be quite different from those of us in that position. On Memorial Day, theoretically, we come together as a nation to remember those who have been lost while performing military service. I do not quite see that grand unity nor believe it. Memorial Day means something different to me than it will to you, if you do not have close family in military service. I have two sons currently serving, as well as one son and a daughter-in-law who are veterans. For me and my house, Memorial Day is to honor others, but is really about what has not happened to us, but what we dread happening.
I do not say what we fear, because if we lived in that fear, we could not live. Memorial Day reminds me of what my sons might risk and what the children of other military parents face and fear. The Marine Corps social media folks sent us a wonderful speech made by Lieutenant General John Kelly, USMC, in February,of this year to Gold Star Families You will find it moving. As a military mother, I found it terrifying. 

Deliberation and the Language of Congress

The Sunlight Foundation has published an analysis of congressional rhetoric.  Lisa Mascaro writes at The Los Angeles Times:
If it sounds like the debates in Congress have devolved into those of teenagers, it's because they have.
Discourse in the House and Senate has dropped a full grade level — to the equivalent of high school sophomore, according to a new study.
Call this the dumbing down of Congress in a partisan age. Or a shift to plain-spoken populism ignited by the new class of tea party Republicans.
But what has become clear in the new research is that the soaring oratory that once filled the floors of the House and Senate with million-dollar diction and sophisticated syntax is making way for a more modest approach.
"Congress is changing as an institution, and what you see is more and more members gearing their speeches as sound bites or YouTube clips," said Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which compiled the study released Monday.
"You can [hark] back to a golden age of Congress when members quoted Shakespeare on the floor and really engaged in debate and talked to each other and tried to reason back and forth," he said.
Or not.  More than a century and a half ago, Tocqueville wrote:
There is hardly a congressman prepared to go home until he has at least one speech printed an sent to his constituents, and he won't let anybody interrupt his harangue until he has made all his useful suggestions about the twenty-four states of the Union, and especially the district he represents. So his audience has to listen to great general truths which he often does not understand himself and makes a muddle of exposing, and very minute particulars which he has not much chance of verifying or explaining. Consequently, the debates of that great assembly are frequently vague and perplexed, seeming to be dragged, rather than to march, to the intended goal.
Indeed, as G.K. Chesterton explained, complex language may hide more than it reveals:
Most of the machinery of modern language is labour-saving machinery; and it saves mental labour very much more than it ought. Scientific phrases are used like scientific wheels and piston-rods to make swifter and smoother yet the path of the comfortable. Long words go rattling by us like long railway trains. We know they are carrying thousands who are too tired or too indolent to walk and think for themselves. It is a good exercise to try for once in a way to express any opinion one holds in words of one syllable. If you say "The social utility of the indeterminate sentence is recognized by all criminologists as a part of our sociological evolution towards a more humane and scientific view of punishment," you can go on talking like that for hours with hardly a movement of the gray matter inside your skull. But if you begin "I wish Jones to go to gaol and Brown to say when Jones shall come out," you will discover, with a thrill of horror, that you are obliged to think. The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard. There is much more metaphysical subtlety in the word "damn" than in the word "degeneration."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The "Thank You Campaign"

Previous posts (2010 and 2011) have discussed Memorial Day. A release from the Thank You Campaign:
Washington, D.C. (May 27, 2012) Launching in honor of Memorial Day 2012, a unique social media campaign hopes to raise awareness of the sacrifices made by families who have lost loved ones that served in the military.
The #ThankYouCampaign is a joint effort by Special Ops Survivors and Military Families United. The goal of the campaign is to get people thinking about the real meaning of Memorial Day and make the topic a top trend on Twitter and other social media, as well as around the picnic tables this holiday weekend.
“Memorial Day is not about mattress sales and cook-outs,” says Hannah Gregory, campaign spokesperson. “We are working to remind people what Memorial Day is all about and that while they are enjoying the company of their families, there are many military families who are handling the loss of a loved one that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
Taking part in the campaign is simple. People are asked to take their own “Thank You” photo which can be as simple as holding a sign that says “Thank You” or something more creative to show their support and their personalities. Photos can then be “Tweeted” with the hashtag #ThankYouCampaignor they can be posted to the campaign’s Facebook page. More information and printable thank you signs and coloring sheets are available on the campaign’s website at
Celebrities and public figures are also being urged to join the campaign and say “Thank You” to the families of fallen military heroes.
The campaign is being launched in time for the upcoming Memorial Day, but the #ThankYouCampaignwill be an ongoing effort “because every day should be a day we remember the families of our fallen military heroes and the sacrifices they made for us,” says Gregory.
Military Families United and Special Ops Survivors have joined efforts to launch the campaign but will be looking for additional nonprofit organizations that serve the families of the fallen and want to join as campaign partners.
“Military Families United is proud to be partnering with the other organizations in the Thank You Campaign to show our united support for families of the fallen,” says Bob Jackson, executive director. “Through this combined effort we can not only remind the public of the sacrifices of these families, but provide the opportunity for all American’s to honor our true Heroes.”
The campaign was created by SHOESTRING (the nonprofit’s agency) as a public service.
To learn more and join the campaign, go to

The Sunscreen Lobby

As Open Secrets reports, there really is a sunscreen lobby, and it's a good case study of how interest groups seek to influence regulators:
While you're baking in the sun this weekend to celebrate the first days of summer, don't forget the sunscreen. Also, remember that while you relax, someone in Washington is probably hard at work devising a lobbying strategy on what the label should say.

Public health advocates are not happy about the way sunscreen bottles are labeled, and for years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has considered updating and revising rules about just what sunscreen manufacturers can claim on those labels. The manufacturers -- yes, there is a "Big Sunscreen" lobby -- have fought long and hard to keep changes from coming. Searching the word "sunscreen" on the lobbying database provides evidence of that.

One of the first finds was a group called Citizens for Sun Protection -- which, based on it's name, you might expect to be a grassroots... sunscreen advocacy group? Digging into its lobbying disclosure forms, we found the group had lobbied Congress for several years on sunscreen related issues, and then in 2009 lobbied the FDA about the final wording of its labeling rules. And if it sounds odd that there was a grassroots sunscreen group, that's because it's not true: According to lobbying records, Citizens for Sun Protection was a creation of CIBA, a European chemical manufacturer. CIBA is now part of BASF, another European chemical company that recently bragged about manufacturing 50 percent of all the anti-UV ray chemicals used in sunscreen around the world.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Persecution and the Presidency

The front page of the national print edition of the New York Times includes this line (a "refer" or "reefer" to a story on page A12): "For the first time, both presidential candidates come from outsider groups that were once persecuted." The president is an African American and Governor Romney is a Mormon, but 2012 is not the first election with two candidates from once-persecuted groups. The 1960 election pitted John F. Kennedy -- a Catholic -- against Richard M. Nixon -- a Quaker.  From The Global Nonviolent Action Database:
Beginning in 1656, members of the newly formed Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) started to arrive in the Massachusetts colony, on ships from England, where Quakerism had recently emerged. The Quakers who arrived in Boston's harbor demanded that they be allowed to live in Massachusetts and practice their own religion freely. They were greeted by intense hostility and were often forced to board the next ship out.
The first known Quakers to arrive in Boston and challenge Puritan religious domination were Mary Fisher and Ann Austin. These two women entered Boston's harbor on the Swallow, a ship from Barbados in July of 1656. The Puritans of Boston greeted Fisher and Austin as if they carried the plague and severely brutalized them. The two were strip searched, accused of witchcraft, jailed, deprived of food, and were forced to leave Boston on the Swallow when it next left Boston eight weeks later. Almost immediately after their arrival, Fisher and Austin's belongings were confiscated, and the Puritan executioner burned their trunk full of Quaker pamphlets and other writings. Shortly after they arrived in Boston, eight more Quakers arrived on a ship from England. This group of eight was imprisoned and beaten. While they were in prison, an edict was passed in Boston that any ship's captain who carried Quakers into Boston would be fined heavily. The Puritan establishment forced the captain, who had brought the group of eight Quakers to Boston, to take them back to England, under a bond of £500.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Public Opinion: Ideology and Social Issues

Our chapter on public opinion looks at political ideology.  Gallup reports some new data:
Americans are more than twice as likely to identify themselves as conservative rather than liberal on economic issues, 46% to 20%. The gap is narrower on social issues, but conservatives still outnumber liberals, 38% to 28%.

For the most part, Americans fall on the same ideological side on economic and social issues. Sixty-one percent are conservative, moderate, or liberal on both dimensions, with the largest percentage, 31%, conservative on both. Fifteen percent are liberal on both social and economic issues, and 15% are moderate on both.

Gallup also finds:
The 41% of Americans who now identify themselves as "pro-choice" is down from 47% last July and is one percentage point below the previous record low in Gallup trends, recorded in May 2009. Fifty percent now call themselves "pro-life," one point shy of the record high, also from May 2009.
But lest anyone think that the conservative trend is uniform, consider opinion on sexual orientation:
The slight majority of American adults, 54%, consider gay or lesbian relations morally acceptable. Public acceptance of gay/lesbian relations as morally acceptable grew slowly but steadily from 38% in 2002 to 56% in 2011 and is now holding at the majority level.

This Gallup trend mirrors the growth in public support for legalizing gay marriage, which has risen from 42% support in 2004 to 50% or greater support in the last two years. Americans' support for gay rights on both questions leveled off in this year's Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 3-6.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Social Media, Terrorism, and Civil Liberties

In our chapter on mass media, we feature a picture of journalist Kimberly Dozier, who suffered severe injuries from a bomb blast while covering the war in Iraq.  Now working for AP, she reports:
The State Department has launched a different sort of raid against al-Qaida, engaging in a cat and mouse game to replace anti-American al-Qaida ads on Yemeni tribal websites.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that experts based at the State Department swapped al-Qaida ads on Yemeni websites bragging about killing Americans with ones showing the deadly impact of al-Qaida tactics on Yemenis themselves.

"Our team plastered the same sites with altered versions of the ads that showed the toll al-Qaida attacks have taken on the Yemeni people," Clinton said.

In response, "Extremists are publicly venting their frustration and asking supporters not to believe everything they read on the Internet," she said.

Clinton says the cyber maneuver was launched by an interagency group of specialists, including diplomats, special operators and intelligence analysts, housed at the State Department. Called the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, its experts patrol the Internet and social media to counter al-Qaida's attempts to recruit new followers.
Other aspects of the online war against terrorism have met with criticism.  Last month, David Saleh Rauf reported at Politico:
Uncle Sam wants to read your tweets and Facebook updates — and, in some cases, already scours your feeds.

Federal agencies have realized they can mine social media for intel to help thwart potential terrorist strikes, keep tabs on domestic protests and better help citizens after a natural disaster.
But privacy groups are clamoring for Congress to intervene, likening it to Big Brother.
That’s a gray area we’re all trying to define,” Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, told POLITICO. “The concept that the government would somehow be monitoring and storing inquiries of individual Web activities — many would find that disconcerting.”

It’s a reality in the social-media generation, however. The federal government informally has been combing Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networks for publicly available citizen tidbits for years. Now, several agencies — the FBI and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency included — are seeking custom tracking technologies to help them scrape social-media sites by computer for certain keywords or trending topics that could help provide them with real-time intelligence.
What keywords could attract the government's attention?  In February, Andrea Stone reported at The Huffington Post:
Ever complain on Facebook that you were feeling "sick?" Told your friends to "watch" a certain TV show? Left a comment on a media website about government "pork?"

If you did any of those things, or tweeted about your recent vacation in "Mexico" or a shopping trip to "Target," the Department of Homeland Security may have noticed.

In the latest revelation of how the federal government is monitoring social media and online news outlets, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has posted online a 2011 Department of Homeland Security manual that includes hundreds of key words (such as those above) and search terms used to detect possible terrorism, unfolding natural disasters and public health threats. The center, a privacy watchdog group, filed a Freedom of Information Act request and then sued to obtain the release of the documents.

The 39-page "Analyst's Desktop Binder" used by the department's National Operations Center includes no-brainer words like ""attack," "epidemic" and "Al Qaeda" (with various spellings). But the list also includes words that can be interpreted as either menacing or innocent depending on the context, such as "exercise," "drill," "wave," "initiative," "relief" and "organization."
From the manual:

States, Corruption, and Safety

Our chapter on federalism discusses ways in which the states differ from one another.  Two new analyses suggest that the differences on ethics and safety are particularly vivid.

From Harvard's Kennedy School of Government:
Why are certain U.S. state governments more prone to corruption than others? That question is at the heart of a new Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Faculty Working Paper co-authored by HKS Assistant Professor Filipe Campante. "Isolated Capital Cities, Accountability and Corruption: Evidence from US States" analyzes the connections between isolated state capitals, media and voter accountability and corruption.
"Some have raised the idea that having a capital city that is geographically isolated from the main centers of population is conducive to higher corruption, as the distance would lead to less accountability," the authors write. "[These observations have] largely not been tested systematically, however, which we believe is due to the lack of appropriate measurement tools for the relevant idea of the spatial distribution of population around the capital city."
By examining detailed population data and federal conviction records, the researchers found that isolated U.S. capital cities are more prone to government corruption. They also find that they are associated with less accountability in a number of dimensions -- including less accountability by the media and voters and more special interest money flowing into the system.

Having lived in both New York (capital: Albany) and California (capital: Sacramento), I think that Professor Campante is onto something.  Many years ago, I worked for a New York state senator who relinquished the chair of the Insurance Committee to avoid conflicts with his new law practice (so far, so good).  The majority leader then gave the chair to another member who was under indictment for an insurance fee-splitting scheme.  The move got little press attention.

California and New York may be sleazy but they're also relatively safe.  From the Trust for America's Health
In a new report, The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report, 24 states scored a five or lower on a set of 10 key indicators of steps states can take to prevent injuries. Two states, California and New York, received the highest score of nine out of a possible 10, while two states scored the lowest, Montana and Ohio, with two out of 10.

Injuries - including those caused by accidents and violence - are the third leading cause of death nationally, and they are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of one and 44.

The Facts Hurt report, released today by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), concludes that millions of injuries could be prevented each year if more states adopted additional research-based injury prevention policies, and if programs were fully implemented and enforced.

Overall, New Mexico has the highest rate of injury-related deaths in the United States, at a rate of 97.8 per 100,000 people, while New Jersey has the lowest rate at 36.1 per 100,000. Overall, the national rate is 57.9 per 100,000 Americans who die in injury-related fatalities.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An Electoral College Tie

In case of a close division of the popular vote, there is a remote but real possibility of a tie in the electoral college.  Below are four ways in which it could plausibly happen.  Note that the first and third scenarios involve a split in Maine or Nebraska.  Unlike the other states, these two use the district system whereby the winner in each congressional district gets an electoral vote for that district and the statewide winner gets the state's remaining two electoral votes.

When no candidate gets a majority in the electoral college, the presidential election goes to the House, which  votes by state delegations.  Each state has one vote, and if a state ties, its vote does not count.  In the 112th Congress, Republicans control 33 state delegations to the Democrats' 16 (Minnesota is split 4-4).  But the choice to the House of the 113th Congress, which will result from this year's election and take office in January.  At this point, it seems likely that Republicans will maintain control, though with fewer seats.

The selection of the vice president belongs to the Senate, which votes by individual.  Democrats currently have a 53-47 majority (with independents Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont counting as Democrats).  If Democrats retain their majority, it is possible that the House could choose Mitt Romney for president while the Senate retains Joe Biden as vice president.

Suppose that the Senate is split 50-50.  In that case, Democrats would argue that Biden -- who would still be vice president until January 20 -- should be able to cast the tie-breaking vote for himself.  At that point, Senate Republicans might boycott the proceedings, depriving the body of the necessary quorum to do business.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lobbying the White House

Our chapter on interest groups discusses the ways in which lobbyists try to influence the White House.  A previous post noted that many meetings between lobbyists and White House aides take place in a building off the White House grounds.  These meetings do not show up on the White House visitor logs.  Still, 
The Washington Post finds useful information from its database of White House visitors:
The visitor logs for Jan. 17 — one of the most recent days available — show that the lobbying industry Obama has vowed to constrain is a regular presence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The records also suggest that lobbyists with personal connections to the White House enjoy the easiest access.
More than any president before him, Obama pledged to change the political culture that has fueled the influence of lobbyists. He barred recent lobbyists from joining his administration and banned them from advisory boards throughout the executive branch. The president went so far as to forbid what had been staples of political interaction — federal employees could no longer accept free admission to receptions and conferences sponsored by lobbying groups.
The White House visitor records make it clear that Obama’s senior officials are granting that access to some of K Street’s most influential representatives. In many cases, those lobbyists have long-standing connections to the president or his aides. Republican lobbyists coming to visit are rare, while Democratic lobbyists are common, whether they are representing corporate clients or liberal causes.
“The administration’s stance on lobbying may be a great applause line for people outside the Beltway but there are people here in D.C. who are lobbying on behalf of a multitude of worthy causes,” [ACLU lobbyist Laura] Murphy said.

Andrew Menter, the chief executive of Vivature Health, said that Downey helped set up a meeting for him in December 2010 with Michael Hash, a top health-policy official. The group discussed how the new health-care law might affect Menter’s business, a Texas-based company that provides billing services for college health programs.
“The whole process was interesting for me. It’s a little scary,” Menter said. “You need a lobbyist to get a meeting.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Census Bureau and the Anti-Lobbying Act

Our chapter on bureaucracy discusses the Anti-Lobbying Act, which forbids government officials from lobbying Congress.  The law reads:
No part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall, in the absence of express authorization by Congress, be used directly or indirectly to pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device, intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, a jurisdiction, or an official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation, whether before or after the introduction of any bill, measure, or resolution proposing such legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation; but this shall not prevent officers or employees of the United States or of its departments or agencies from communicating to any such Member or official, at his request, or to Congress or such official, through the proper official channels, requests for any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriations which they deem necessary for the efficient conduct of the public business, or from making any communication whose prohibition by this section might, in the opinion of the Attorney General, violate the Constitution or interfere with the conduct of foreign policy, counter-intelligence, intelligence, or national security activities. Violations of this section shall constitute violations of section 1352(a) of title 31.
Yet bureaucrats continue to do what the law appears to forbid.  For example the director of the Census Bureau  has severely criticized a House bill:

Battleship and Civic Culture

The new science-fiction action movie Battleship is short on scientific accuracy and believable characters, but it is loaded with reverence for military personnel and veterans.

The Navy is getting the opportunity to showcase its men and women in uniform in director Peter Berg’s summer action movie “Battleship,” which was released Friday.
The Navy allowed the film crew to visit destroyers USS Hopper, USS Preble and USS Chung-hoon in Hawaii, as well as watch training at sea. The crew also filmed aboard the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the ship on which the Japanese surrendered to Allied forces in 1945.
“We’re here to reaffirm … Hollywood’s love, admiration and respect for the United States military. We love you guys, we appreciate what you do, we appreciate what your spouses do, what your kids do, and we made this movie for you,” said Mr. Berg, whose father served in the Marine Corps.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
While promoting the movie "Battleship" in Tokyo last month,U.S. Army Col. Greg Gadson found himself face-to-face with a stunned reporter.
"He thought I was computer-generated," said Gadson, a burly former West Point football player who walks with the aid of futuristic-looking titanium prosthetics. "He thought my legs were movie magic."
There was no CGI needed for Gadson's performance as a wounded combat veteran in "Battleship" — both of his legs were amputated above the knee after he was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007. "Battleship" director Peter Berg cast Gadson in the movie, which opened in Los Angeles last Friday, after seeing an imposing photograph of the soldier in a National Geographic article about advances in artificial limbs.
Berg also enlisted dozens of other wounded soldiers as extras in "Battleship," which stars Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna as a Naval lieutenant and petty officer whose ship becomes embroiled in an alien attack. Gadson plays Mick, a double amputee struggling through his first rehab session with a physical therapist (Brooklyn Decker) when the extraterrestrials arrive.
"I believe we don't do enough to respect our veterans," said Berg, who shot one sequence of the film at the Center for the Intrepid, a facility in San Antonio that treats amputees and burn victims who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. "And we tend to outright ignore the people who've been seriously hurt."

Bloomberg reports:
During the making of the movie "Battleship," the science fiction thriller pitting U.S. naval forces against alien attackers, the Navy requested just one key change: replace an overweight actor portraying an officer with a slimmer one, according to director Peter Berg.
The surface-ship tale, a special-effects-laden movie which opens nationally today, received full U.S. Navy cooperation. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus had a one-line role as commanding officer of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier: "Commence air operations."
The cooperation included filming on U.S. vessels during the RIMPAC 2010 naval exercise and at famous Hawaiian sites, use of sailors on leave, helicopter flights and one day at sea filming the USS Missouri, a floating museum normally docked at Pearl Harbor. The so-called Mighty Mo battleship last fired its guns during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
In exchange for such access, equipment and personnel, filmmakers must modify a script if requested by the Pentagon or military service. Among the most famous maritime films that received Pentagon and Navy support was 1990's "The Hunt for Red October."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tribal Citizenship Standards

Our chapter on citizenship has an extensive discussion of the status of Native Americans.  Previous posts have discussed controversies over tribal citizenship.  A recent controversy in Massachusetts has renewed attention to the issue.  At The Atlantic, Garance Franke-Ruta writes:
Elizabeth Warren is not a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
Elizabeth Warren is not enrolled in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
And Elizabeth Warren is not one of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee.
Nor could she become one, even if she wanted to.
Despite a nearly three week flap over her claim of "being Native American," the progressive consumer advocate has been unable to point to evidence of Native heritage except for a unsubstantiated thirdhand report that she might be 1/32 Cherokee. Even if it could be proven, it wouldn't qualify her to be a member of a tribe: Contrary to assertions in outlets from The New York Times to Mother Jones that having 1/32 Cherokee ancestry is "sufficient for tribal citizenship," "Indian enough" for "the Cherokee Nation," and "not a deal-breaker," Warren would not be eligible to become a member of any of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes based on the evidence so far surfaced by independent genealogists about her ancestry.
The claim of 1/32 ancestry involved her great-great-grandmother's birth certificate, but no one has actually found the document.
But even were such a document to be found, Warren would not be eligible to enroll as a Cherokee based on it alone. To begin with, the Cherokee Nation doesn't accept marriage licenses as documentation of Cherokee ancestry -- let alone a document described as an application for a marriage license by a descendent of the individual claimed as Cherokee.
"Marriage licenses don't cut it," said Krehbiel-Burton of the Cherokee Nation.
Further, to enroll as a member of the Cherokee Nation, an individual must have had a direct ancestor listed among the more than 101,000 people enrolled on the "Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory" between 1898-1914, now known as the Dawes Rolls. The Cherokee Nation is very strict about this, even keeping descendants of siblings of men and women on the rolls out of the tribe, as well as descendents of Cherokees who were living out of the area at the time the lists were drawn up in what was then Northeastern Oklahoma.
The article deals with ancestry politics more generally:
Fractional Native American ancestry is quite hard to prove to the standards of the U.S. government, which in many ways acts as the ultimate "birther" in this regard. Percentage of ancestry or "blood quantum" -- the creepy and antique-sounding term used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which certifies it for two of the three Cherokee tribes -- is recognized by the Bureau based on original documents (such as birth certificates, Census records, and death certificates) through something called a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood, or CDIB.
Warren would need to be certified by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as at least 1/16 Eastern Cherokee on a CDIB to be eligible to join the Eastern Cherokee. The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee hasan even stricter enrollment cut-off: "a minimum blood quantum requirement of one quarter (1/4) degree Keetoowah Cherokee blood" documented via a CDIB plus a direct descent from someone on the Dawes Rolls. Tribal citizenship standards are set by the tribes themselves, and not the U.S. government.
Here is an example of a CDIB:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Armed Forces Day

A presidential proclamation:
With every assignment and in every theater, America's men and women in uniform perform their duties with the utmost dignity, honor, and professionalism. Through their dauntless courage and dedication, they live up to our Nation's highest ideals in even the most perilous circumstances. On Armed Forces Day, we pay tribute to the unparalleled service of our Armed Forces and recall the extraordinary feats they accomplish in defense of our Nation.
As individuals, our service members set extraordinary examples of character for those whose freedom they protect. Together, they comprise the greatest force for freedom and security the world has ever known. From their earliest training to the thick of battle, they look to those with whom they stand shoulder-to-shoulder, knowing they rise and fall as one team. United in their love of country, they teach us the true meaning of words like duty, honor, and strength.
Not just leaders and troops, patriots and heroes, the members of our Armed Forces are also parents, spouses, partners, sons, and daughters. Their families are just as vital to their success as their brothers and sisters in arms, and our debt of gratitude extends to them as well. As we celebrate the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who make our way of life possible, we also pay our deepest respect to their families, our missing, our wounded, and our fallen. Inspired by their service and humbled by their sacrifice, let us recommit to providing all those who have served our Nation the support they deserve.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, continuing the precedent of my predecessors in office, do hereby proclaim the third Saturday of each May as Armed Forces Day.
In 2006, the crew of an aircraft carrier made one awesome video:

Citizenship in the News

At The Wall Street Journal, Laura Sanders discusses taxation and the renunciation of citizenship:

See a striking interactive graph on the sharp rise in the number of Americans renouncing their citizenship.  And another, static, graph:


Via USA Today, The Tennesseean reports on naturalization:
When typical native-born Americans think about immigrants, they think about Latin American farm workers or nannies, said Flavia Jimenez, director of integration policy for the nonprofit National Immigration Forum. They also think naturalization is a simple process.
"That plays into our ineffective policy on immigration," she said. "It doesn't paint a clear picture of who we are as a nation. There are a lot of myths about who the immigrants are, the face of the immigrant community."
The largest number of naturalized citizens in Tennessee came from India in 2010, the most recent year for detailed U.S. Department of Homeland Security data. Mexico was second, and Egypt third. Most were in professional or management careers.


And at The New York Times, Professor Jacqueline Stevens questions the whole idea of birthright citizenship:
Why does the practice endure? One could point to how birthright ensures loyalty to those born on the same soil and preserves one’s ties to one’s ancestors. But as Aristotle, explaining how the first families proved themselves to be citizens, said: “As a mortar is made by a mortar-maker, so a citizen is made by a citizen-maker.” In other words, citizens are not sprung from the earth or the womb; nationality is not genetic.
Citizens are created by politicians, the citizen-makers. And they are created because the nation, and hence birthright citizenship, exists to alleviate anxieties about death. Belonging to the nation or any other community by birth, including one’s family, sustains fantasies of immortality, as these groups persist after one’s own life has ended. Birthright citizenship, and indeed, the entire body of laws around families and inheritance, embody societies’ collective flight from death.
Libertarians and economists have long questioned the usefulness of national boundaries. In 1984, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page proposed adding a constitutional amendment: “There shall be open borders.”
For some on the left, the abolition of birthright citizenship evokes the nightmarish prospect of a labor glut in wealthy countries, the global lowering of wages, and capitalism run amok. But greed and corruption have challenged good governance in all ages, not just in the modern capitalist era. Moreover, too many on the left overlook how inheritance laws perpetuate inequality, as well as the disparity in wealth among countries because of restrictions on migration.
Karl Marx predicted that the demise of feudalism would mean that wealth would be created anew in each generation. Instead, intergenerational transmission of money and property remains the main culprit for inequality in wealth. Abolishing inheritance would help end inequality within countries; abolishing birthright citizenship would help end inequality among countries, by letting people move for greater opportunity.

Friday, May 18, 2012

An Overview of 2012

What Will Matter
What Won't Matter
What Might Matter
Congressional Elections

Just remember: there is no new thing under the sun.

Public Opinion and International Affairs

As we note in our chapter on foreign policy, the American public has only a fitful interest in international affairs. The Pew Research Center reports:
As the G-8 leaders prepare to meet at Camp David on Friday, the dominant topic of conversation will be the European debt crisis. Yet it is a crisis that has attracted minimal interest or concern among the U.S. public, despite warnings from economists that Europe’s problems may threaten this country’s fragile recovery.
Last week was typical: In the Pew Research Center’s weekly News Interest Index, just 17% said they were following news about economic problems in Europe very closely. Just 3% cited this as their top story of the week. By comparison, 40% tracked U.S. economic news very closely and 20% said they followed it more closely than any other story.
A week earlier, nearly four times as many said the death of football player Junior Seau was their top story than cited Europe’s economic problems (11% vs. 3%).
In part, the public’s lack of interest Europe’s woes is part of a broader indifference to international news. Last year, there were a number of breakthrough foreign stories, from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the “Arab spring.” Not this year.
Where Americans do have opinions on international relations, they often tend to differ from people in other countries.  Pew finds that people in most nations oppose Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons, but that Americans are particularly willing to use force:


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Births: Majority Minority

The Census Bureau reports:
The U.S. Census Bureau today released a set of estimates showing that 50.4 percent of our nation's population younger than age 1 were minorities as of July 1, 2011. This is up from 49.5 percent from the 2010 Census taken April 1, 2010. A minority is anyone who is not single-race white and not Hispanic.
The population younger than age 5 was 49.7 percent minority in 2011, up from 49.0 percent in 2010. A population greater than 50 percent minority is considered “majority-minority.”
These are the first set of population estimates by race, Hispanic origin, age and sex since the 2010 Census. They examine population change for these groups nationally, as well as within all states and counties, between Census Day (April 1, 2010) and July 1, 2011. Also released were population estimates for Puerto Rico and its municipios by age and sex.
There were 114 million minorities in 2011, or 36.6 percent of the U.S. population. In 2010, it stood at 36.1 percent.
There were five majority-minority states or equivalents in 2011: Hawaii (77.1 percent minority), the District of Columbia (64.7 percent), California (60.3 percent), New Mexico (59.8 percent) and Texas (55.2 percent). No other state had a minority population greater than 46.4 percent of the total.
More than 11 percent (348) of the nation's 3,143 counties were majority-minority as of July 1, 2011, with nine of these counties achieving this status since April 1, 2010. Maverick, Texas, had the largest share (96.8 percent) of its population in minority groups, followed by Webb, Texas (96.4 percent) and Wade Hampton Census Area, Alaska (96.2 percent).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Survey Response Rates

Our chapter on public opinion and political participation notes that falling response rates are a problem for public opinion surveys.  The Pew Research Center has some new numbers:

For decades survey research has provided trusted data about political attitudes and voting behavior, the economy, health, education, demography and many other topics. But political and media surveys are facing significant challenges as a consequence of societal and technological changes.
It has become increasingly difficult to contact potential respondents and to persuade them to participate. The percentage of households in a sample that are successfully interviewed – the response rate – has fallen dramatically. At Pew Research, the response rate of a typical telephone survey was 36% in 1997 and is just 9% today.
A new study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that, despite declining response rates, telephone surveys that include landlines and cell phones and are weighted to match the demographic composition of the population continue to provide accurate data on most political, social and economic measures. This comports with the consistent record of accuracy achieved by major polls when it comes to estimating election outcomes, among other things.1
This is not to say that declining response rates are without consequence. One significant area of potential non-response bias identified in the study is that survey participants tend to be significantly more engaged in civic activity than those who do not participate, confirming what previous research has shown.2 People who volunteer are more likely to agree to take part in surveys than those who do not do these things. This has serious implications for a survey’s ability to accurately gauge behaviors related to volunteerism and civic activity. For example, telephone surveys may overestimate such behaviors as church attendance, contacting elected officials, or attending campaign events.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Celebrating Army Rangers

A central theme of our book is that, while self-interest explains a lot about government, it does not explain everything.  Self-sacrifice is also part of the story, as we see in this release from the US Army Special Operations Command:

Army Rangers hold rare public ceremony to celebrate service, sacrifice

By David Poe
Northwest Guardian
TACOMA, Wash. (May 10, 2012) Pfc. Joshua Overly, a Ranger from 2-75 Rngr., receives a Bronze Star Medal from Lt. Col. David Hodne, his battalion commander, in Tacoma, May 10. “(Our family) has used it as an opportunity to learn about our country’s history and the history of the world,” Carol Overly, Joshua's mother, said. “Seeing the work that my boys do now — the physical training, the mental training — it’s astounding the amount of hard work they do. It’s made me proud — proud of our country and all of the men and women in the military.
Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, U.S. Army Special Operations Command commander, affixes a Valorous Unit Award streamer to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment colors in Tacoma, Wash., May 10, 2012. The Ranger battalion received two in the rare public ceremony for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005.
TACOMA, Wash. (USASOC News Service, May 15, 2012) - The U.S. Army Ranger story is typically a closed book, but Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Rangers opened the pages of their latest chapter for an evening last week. The South Sound community had the rare opportunity to join 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, in recognizing its own at the Tacoma Dome, May 10.

More than 50 Rangers received commendations, which ranged from Army Commendation medals to a Silver Star for combat and non-combat action going back to 2005. The battalion also received two Valorous Unit awards for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, 2-75th Rangers has deployed for Overseas Contingency Operations 14 times. Their most recent Operation Enduring Freedom deployment concluded in December. During the five-month rotation they conducted 475 combat operations where they lost four rangers and one attached Soldier.

Staff Sgt. Sean Keough received the Silver Star for courage under fire in Afghanistan last year. The Silver Star is America's third highest combat decoration.

Last fall, Keough, serving as a Ranger rifleman and squad leader, was part of a joint task force conducting a raid on a Taliban compound. When a comrade was injured during the assault, Keough positioned himself between the wounded Ranger and insurgent fire so that other task force members could administer medical aid.

After he and another teammate eliminated a charging insurgent, he was hit by enemy fire and still held his position between the enemy and his downed teammate as his squad radioed for a medevac. Refusing treatment throughout a long firefight, he continued his integral part of the mission, helping the team to overtake the enemy compound eight hours later. He also received a Purple Heart for the wounds he suffered during that engagement.

Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, traveled from his Fort Bragg, N.C., headquarters for the event. He said to be a part of a night when so many Rangers were honored for heroic deeds was awe inspiring.

"That convergence -- that range of valor is extraordinary," he said, "and by itself should tell us what it means to be a Ranger, and to be a Ranger battalion."

Five 2-75th Rangers noncommissioned officers received Soldier's Medals for rescuing two climbers atop Alaska's Mount Denali a year ago. At 20,320 feet, the mountain formerly known as "McKinley" is the highest peak in North America.

The Soldier's Medal is an award recognizing life-risking heroism that didn't involve an enemy. The recipients were Sgt. 1st Class. Joseph Lachnit, Staff Sgt. Austin McCall, Staff Sgt. Keith Pierce and Staff Sgt. David Ray, and Sgt. Kyle Cresto.

Seven Rangers received Bronze Star Medals with "V" devices for valor during the ceremony. Pfc. Joshua Overly, 24, was one of them. During a 2011 firefight, the Ranger rifleman drew enemy fire and eliminated the threat so that two injured troops could be safely reached and extracted.

The native of nearby Gig Harbor shied away from the "hero" label.

"I was just in a bad situation and I did my job; that's what it boils down to," he said. "Anybody in my unit could have been in the same exact situation as me and did the exact same thing."

verly said he was glad his family and friends could see his fellow Rangers, instead of just hearing his stories about them.

"(The ceremony) gave my family a sneak peek of the men that I'm surrounded by," Overly said. "I could tell them on the phone that I'm in the company of heroes at all times -- it means a little bit more for them to see it and hear it from somebody else."

Carol Overly, Joshua's mother, said she appreciated that opportunity. As a mother of two enlisted military members, (another son, Joel, is a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif.), she said last week's ceremony provided her valuable lessons.

"(Our family) has used it as an opportunity to learn about our country's history and the history of the world," she said. "Seeing the work that my boys do now -- the physical training, the mental training -- it's astounding the amount of hard work they do. It's made me proud -- proud of our country and all of the men and women in the military."

Lt. Col. David Hodne, 2-75th Rangers commander, said the openness of the ceremony was a reminder that though Ranger operational missions are shrouded in security, it's important to touch base with a public that might know the legend of the Army Ranger, yet never have the opportunity to shake his hand.

"The community is insulated from the Rangers when we're only in our compound, and they are our biggest fans and supporters," he said, "so when you talk about getting a perspective on what these great Rangers are doing, there's no better way to do it."

Hodne also said any benefit to the community was matched by appreciation from his ranks.

"After now more than 10 years of war, for families to celebrate amongst themselves -- to do this in isolation -- they've done that for years," he said. "Over time it's difficult to continue when you think you're alone in your effort in fighting the war. These men get up every day and do the hard jobs -- without complaint."

Americans Elect, RIP

Our chapter on political parties analyzes the barriers to third parties in the United States.  The latest example is Americans Elect, as AP reports:
A private organization established to run a third-party candidate in this year’s presidential elections has thrown in the towel, saying no one mustered sufficient support for such an effort.
Kahlil Byrd, chief executive officer of Americans Elect, said in a statement that under the rules his group approved for an online primary, the process was ending Tuesday.
Third party presidential candidacies have rarely succeeded in U.S. politics, and Americans Elect had hoped to conduct the “Americans Elect Online Convention” this June.
But Byrd said that “as of today, no candidate has reached the national support threshold required” to enter the online convention. He added that there still is “an almost universal desire among delegates, leadership and millions of Americans who have supported AE to see a credible candidate emerge from this process.”
John Avlon writes at The Daily Beast:
There are a range of explanations for why Americans Elect fell so far short of their nomination goals.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle was the basic fact of this particular election cycle—when a president is running for reelection, it tends to be a referendum. Third-party candidacies do best when there is not an incumbent on the ballot; think Ross Perot ’92 versus ’96.

The endurance of the Republican primary likewise provided plenty of polarizing, and pandering moments were evidence why an alternative is badly needed, but by the time Mitt Romney secured the nomination there was relatively little time for another candidate to make their case, and less urgency than if Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich were the nominee.

Finally, the organization’s emphasis on ballot security proved to be an unexpected barrier to entry. The technology powering the online draft effort won South by Southwest’s People’s Choice Award, won by Groupon last year. It was designed by the team that built the E*Trade platform. It was so secure in terms of ensuring one person one vote that actually signing up to serve as a delegate and support a candidate took several steps and more than 10 minutes. In an era of slacktivists used to ‘liking’ something and quickly moving on, this was a serious hurdle.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Super PAC Goes for Youth

A new Republican super PAC today kicked into gear in Iowa today to whip up support younger Iowa voters.
The new PAC, called Crossroads Generation, is a joint venture of American Crossroads, the super PAC that GOP strategist Karl Rove helped found; the College Republican National Committee; the Young Republican National Federation and the Republican State Leadership Committee, according to a news release.
Iowa native Derek Flowers is the executive director of Crossroads Generation.
It’s doing $50,000 in online ads targeted at young swing voters in eight key states: Iowa, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.
The PAC, with $750,000 in startup money, will also do a new website and video, Twitter feed (@CrossroadsGen), and Facebook effort (
Flowers was director of the 2012 Iowa Straw Poll and was the national victory director at the Republican National Committee.

Dual Citizenship

At The New York Times, "Room for Debate" has a symposium on dual citizenship.

Temple University Professor Peter Spiro:
Dual citizenship poses few concrete problems as the world moves away from zero-sum competition among states. Acceptance of the status allows the many individuals with multiple national attachments to actuate those identities. In this respect, dual citizenship represents a kind of freedom of association, a form of voluntary affiliation to be protected, not condemned.
Mark Krikorian of the  Center for Immigration Studies:
 Just as membership in a marriage entails an exclusive relationship, so does membership in a national community. Despite the multiple connections and loyalties we all have, a person can have only one ultimate political allegiance, be the member of one "We the people." Anything else is, in Theodore Roosevelt's words, a "self-evident absurdity."
University of Miami Professor David Abraham:
The increased mobility of people, goods and money has been creating a larger and larger population of dual citizens in the United States, Europe, Asia, Latin America and around the world. With some countries allocating citizenship on the basis of birthplace and others on the basis of descent, dual citizenship is inevitable. 
University of Toronto Professor Ayelet Shachar:
 The strategic value of dual nationality is immense. It allows emigrants to establish and maintain connections between their old and new home countries — connections that can generate significant knowledge transfers, remittances, and future investments. It may also mitigate the “brain drain” associated with the unidirectional movement of migrants, especially the highly skilled, from poorer to richer countries.
Brown University Professor José Itzigsohn:
 The United States does not officially recognize dual citizenship, but it does not take action against it either. I believe this to be a correct policy. Evidence suggests that dual citizenship does not delay the identification of immigrants with the receiving country. Migration does not imply an abrupt break with the country of origin and an immediate identification with the new country. This process takes time as migrants naturally keep an emotional attachment to the place in which they were born. This has always been the case, now and in the past, here and in other countries.