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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Majority Sees Government as a Threat

As we discuss in our chapter on citizenship and civic culture, Americans tend to distrust centralized power (see pp. 115-116 of the second edition.) In this light, the Pew Research Center reports:
As Barack Obama begins his second term in office, trust in the federal government remains mired near a historic low, while frustration with government remains high. And for the first time, a majority of the public says that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, finds that 53% think that the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms while 43% disagree.
In March 2010, opinions were divided over whether the government represented a threat to personal freedom; 47% said it did while 50% disagreed. In surveys between 1995 and 2003, majorities rejected the idea that the government threatened people’s rights and freedoms.
The growing view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms has been led by conservative Republicans. Currently 76% of conservative Republicans say that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms and 54% describe the government as a “major” threat. Three years ago, 62% of conservative Republicans said the government was a threat to their freedom; 47% said it was a major threat.
By comparison, there has been little change in opinions among Democrats; 38% say the government poses a threat to personal rights and freedoms and just 16% view it as a major threat.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Drones: Why Hollywood Needs Washington

The entertainment industry relies on government permission or cooperation in a variety of ways, from film permits to tax subsidies to the use of military equipment in movies.  At The Hill, Brendan Sasso reports on the latest example:
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) revealed in a lobbying disclosure report this week that it had urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow filmmakers to fly unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace. The group had previously disclosed lobbying on the issue in a report last October.

Howard Gantman, a spokesman for the MPAA, explained that putting a camera on an unmanned aircraft can be cheaper, safer and more useful than relying on a helicopter or a crane to get a difficult shot.
"You can innovate in a number of different, interesting ways to shoot a scene [using unmanned aircraft]," Gantman said.
The FAA is currently drafting rules to allow private groups to apply to fly drones. The agency aims to begin issuing private drone licenses by 2015.
Perhaps not coincidentally, The Hill also reports:
Labor unions and Hollywood donors are open to bankrolling Organizing for Action, the outside group that has been formed in support of President Obama’s second-term agenda.
 Even if corporate cash stays on the sidelines, Organizing for Action has a number of donor bases that it can tap for cash, including Hollywood stars and executives.
“While donors are still catching their breath from the election, we expect they will be very generous in support of the president’s ambitious agenda,” said Kevin Ryan with Andy Spahn & Associates, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm that works with Hollywood donors.

The entertainment industry was a fundraising juggernaut for Obama during his reelection campaign, and has shown a willingness to make the six-figure donations that are the lifeblood of outside groups.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, gave $3 million to Priorities USA Action, while Director Steven Spielberg chipped in $1.1 million.

The President and Legislation

The separation of powers has come into play during the Obama administration, as it has during every other administration. Yesterday, the president said of immigration reform:
Now, of course, there will be rigorous debate about many of the details, and every stakeholder should engage in real give and take in the process.  But it’s important for us to recognize that the foundation for bipartisan action is already in place.  And if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.
The president's formal authority in this respect is limited.  Article II, section 3 of the Constitution says:  "He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."  The president cannot  directly introduce legislation, and has no constitutional power to compel any particular action.

The first step in the legislative process is the introduction of a bill to Congress. Anyone can write it, but only members of Congress can introduce legislation. Some important bills are traditionally introduced at the request of the President, such as the annual federal budget. During the legislative process, however, the initial bill can undergo drastic changes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Data on Immigration

The nation’s total immigrant population reached a record 40.4 million in 2011, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.
Over the last decade, the number of immigrants in the U.S. has steadily grown. Since 2007 alone, the number of immigrants living in the U.S. increased by 2.4 million.
The number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. also grew during the last decade, rising from 8.4 million in 2000 to 11.1 million in 2011. However, this population peaked at 12 million in 2007, then fell to 11.1 million in 2009. It has remained at that level through 2011, the last year for which an estimate is available (Passel and Cohn, 2012).
The Washington Times, however reports on data pointing in the opposite direction:
Even as President Obama travels to Las Vegas Tuesday to call for legalizing illegal immigrants, the latest numbers from the U.S. Border Patrol suggest that the flow across the nation’s southwest border jumped by 9 percent last year.
The Border Patrol made 356,873 arrests along the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2012, up from 327,577 in 2011, according to figures obtained by the Associated Press and confirmed by The Washington Times. Border Patrol officials estimate that apprehensions are a good proxy for illegal crossings, so when the numbers go up, it means that the flow of illegal immigrants is going up as well.
Last year’s increase marks a reversal. Apprehensions peaked in 2005 at 1.2 million and had been steadily dropping every year since as first President George W. Bush and then Mr. Obama committed more manpower and resources to the border.

LA Campaign Videos

The entertainment industry has long played a role in California politics.  In the race for mayor of Los Angeles,
a super PAC supporting underdog Kevin James compares the other candidates to a fox in the henhouse.  As in the famous "Demon Sheep" ad from 2010, Actor Robert Davi narrates:


Salma Hayek notes that candidate Eric Garcetti excels at dancing, piano-playing and cooking.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The 27th Amendment in the News

In 1982, while researching a paper, University of Texas undergraduate Gregory Watson discovered that, besides the Bill of Rights, the first Congress had submitted two other amendments to the states for ratification. One of the two amendments would have barred any change in congressional pay from going into effect until a congressional election had taken place. Watson learned that the pay amendment, though unratified at the time, was still viable because it lacked a deadline for ratification. The teaching assistant who graded the paper did not believe its argument and gave Watson a "C."  Nevertheless,  he began lobbying state legislatures to ratify it.  He had the last laugh in May 1992.  Amid public unhappiness with deficits, congressional pay raises and Capitol Hill misconduct, it got the necessary three-fourths of legislatures and became the 27th Amendment.

Scott Bomboy writes at Constitution Daily:
The debate over the “No Budget, No Pay” debt-ceiling deal has some people saying the proposed act is unconstitutional because of the 27th Amendment. But what happens if Congress passes a law that can be successfully challenged?
Any such challenge could take years in the appeals process as it heads to the Supreme Court and would possibly happen after the current 113th Congress has concluded its business.
The No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013 was passed last week in the House and extends the debt ceiling into May. Senate leaders and President Obama had said previously they would support the measure.
As part of the deal, pay for Congress members will be placed in an escrow account if an official budget isn’t approved by April 15, 2013.
After that date, if the House or Senate doesn’t approve a budget, the pay for the chamber in violation gets put aside until a budget is approved, or the current Congress ends in January 2015, and the money is released.
Link: Read the No Budget, No Pay Act
The 27th Amendment says that “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” It was approved in 1992.
Some critics argue that by putting its pay on hold, Congress is “varying” its pay and directly violating the 27th Amendment, since a sitting Congress can’t change its own compensation. At the very least, they say, the law can’t take effect until the next Congress is seated in 2015.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Celebrity Expatriation Update

A number of posts have discussed expatriation The Local (Switzerland) reports that singer Tina Turner is giving up her US citizenship to become Swiss:
The news was trumpeted by Blick and other Swiss-German newspapers on Friday.
Turner, 73, has lived near Zurich since 1995, making a mansion in Küsnacht, overlooking Lake Zurich, her principal residence.
“I am very happy in Switzerland and I feel at home here,” she told Blick. “I could not imagine a better place to live.”
Blick said Turner, whose real name is Anna Mae Bullock, had to undergo an interview with  officials in Küsnacht before the municipality approved her “naturalization”.
The singer, who has sold 200 million records, first came to Zurich when her longtime partner, German music manager Erwin Bach was transferred to the Swiss city.
The eight-time Grammy Award winner retired from performing in 2009.
A spokesperson for Turner told Blick that she appreciates the cleanliness, orderliness and four seasons of Switzerland.
And the native of Tennessee is reportedly learning German “diligently”.
RT reports:
But her home state in the US appears less enthusiastic about the decision. The mayor of Brownsville, Tenn., said she was “surprised” to hear about Turner’s decision to give up her US citizenship and said it might be time to think about why someone would do that.
“I think anytime a person, whether they’re world-renowned or the most meek and mild, makes a decision to change their citizenship we need to step back and think what causes that decision,” Mayor Jo Matherne told FOX411. But even though the mayor expressed concern about the singer’s US abandonment, she said Turner still keeps in contact with her hometown.
“Tina Turner – as she has gotten worldwide fame – has never forgotten her roots,” Matherne said. “We’ve been in recent contact with some of her people talking about some projects we have in Brownsville.”
Although Turner is estimated to be worth about $200 million and says she wasn’t motivated by taxes, keeping her US citizenship would have forced her to continue paying the IRS, even if she never returns to the US.
For 150 years, Switzerland has also offered tax breaks for foreign millionaires to boost tourism, making them exempt from an income tax and allowing them to pay a flat fee. More than 5,000 foreigners have been using the tax breaks, but opponents of the deal have been gathering signatures to scrap the breaks, putting it up for a popular vote to take place within the next two years.
Four of Switzerland’s 26 cantons – including Zurich – have already scrapped the tax breaks for wealthy foreigners.
During most of her 20 years in Switzerland, Turner benefited from the tax breaks. Although she will now be paying Swiss taxes as a citizen, which are high, she will no longer have to pay American taxes in addition.
Associated Press reports that actor Randy Quaid is in a different situation:
Canadian immigration officials have denied U.S. actor Randy Quaid's request for permanent resident status in Canada.
A Canadian government official confirmed late Saturday that Quaid`s request for permanent status has been denied.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Quaid can appeal the decision to the federal court.
U.S. officials last year refused to seek extradition of the actor and his wife from Canada to face felony vandalism charges in Santa Barbara, California, but authorities in the coastal town say they'll still have the couple arrested if they return to the states.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Filibuster Rules Change

Roll Call reports that the Senate voted 78-16 on Thursday to modify rules for debate.  Liberals had pressed Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for stern action, but the final product was more moderate.
While the package falls far short of what a group of more liberal Democratic senators had sought, it should accomplish one of Reid’s stated goals: allowing business to progress more quickly. In no case, however, will senators lose the right to force a 60-vote supermajority vote on bills and nominations as provided under the existing rules.
Most significantly, the package modifies Senate procedure to provide two new expedited options for bringing legislation to the floor.
On legislative items on which Reid and McConnell agree to take up, the cloture vote on the motion to proceed would take place the day after the motion is filed, eliminating a waiting day. In addition, there would be no further debate after cloture is invoked, cutting out another day. That falls short of doing away with the ability to filibuster motions to proceed altogether. (Cloture motions, which limit debate, require 60 votes for adoption.)
Reid would have a second choice, however. The majority could proceed to legislation without risk of an initial filibuster if it guaranteed that each party is allowed to offer a pair of amendments. Partially resolving a concern publicly raised by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, amendments offered through that process would be subject to an automatic 60-vote threshold if they are not germane. That’s based on an idea from Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich.
Roll Call follows up:
In theory, the Nevada Democrat could use the new rules to bring up almost any piece of legislation, as long as he allowed Republicans to offer at least two amendments of their choosing. But in practice, political pressures may make him think twice before employing that tactic.
One senior GOP aide expressed doubt that Reid would regularly use the new power to sidestep filibusters on motions to proceed. After all, he would be giving the GOP the power to have a roll call vote on any topic, and Republicans have not been shy about pushing amendments they know put vulnerable Democratic incumbents in a difficult spot.
Of course, the new maneuver could also set up a quandary for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He would control the right to offer the Republican amendments, and the 45 members of his conference would undoubtedly be interested in getting their chance to address their issues.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Court Blocks Recess Appointments

Previous posts have discussed recess appointments. Bloomberg reports:
President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the U.S. National Labor Relations Board last year were “constitutionally invalid” because the Senate wasn’t in recess at the time, a federal appeals court ruled.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington in a unanimous ruling today sided with Republican lawmakers and a canning company that challenged the appointments. The judges said the definition of “the Recess” in the Constitution’s Recess Appointments Clause is limited to the period between one Congress and the next, and that Congress had begun a new session at the time the president made the appointments.
“Considering the text, history and structure of the Constitution, these appointments were invalid from their inception,” U.S. Circuit Judge David Sentelle wrote.
The ruling today is the first substantive decision by a federal appeals court on several challenges to the president’s naming of the NLRB members on Jan. 4, 2012, while the Senate was holding so-called pro-forma sessions that sometimes involved a single senator appearing in the chamber every third day.
The case is Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board, 12-1115, 12-1153, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).
From the opinion of the court:
 Noel Canning contends that the term “the Recess” in the Recess Appointments Clause refers to the intersession recess of the Senate, that is to say, the period between sessions of the Senate when the Senate is by definition not in session and therefore unavailable to receive and act upon nominations from the President. The Board’s position is much less clear. It argues that the alternative appointment procedure created by that Clause is available during intrasession “recesses,” or breaks in the Senate’s business when it is otherwise in a continuing session. The Board never states how short a break is too short, under its theory, to serve as a “recess” for purposes of the Recess Appointments Clause. This merely reflects the Board’s larger problem: it fails to differentiate between “recesses” and the actual constitutional language, “the Recess.”
Either the Senate is in session, or it is in the recess. If it has broken for three days within an ongoing session, it is not in “the Recess.” It is universally accepted that “Session” here refers to the usually two or sometimes three sessions per Congress. Therefore, “the Recess” should be taken to mean only times when the Senate is not in one of those sessions. Cf. Virginia v. Tennessee, 148 U.S. 503, 519 (1893) (interpreting terms “by reference to associated words”). Confirming this reciprocal meaning, the First Congress passed a compensation bill that provided the Senate’s engrossing clerk “two dollars per day during the session, with the like compensation to such clerk while he shall be necessarily employed in the recess.” Act of Sept. 22, 1789, ch. 17, § 4, 1 Stat. 70, 71.
Not only logic and language, but also constitutional history supports the interpretation advanced by Noel Canning, not that of the Board. When the Federalist Papers spoke of recess appointments, they referred to those commissions as expiring “at the end of the ensuing session.” The Federalist No. 67, at 408 (Clinton Rossiter ed., 2003). For there to be an “ensuing session,” it seems likely to the point of near certainty that recess appointments were being made at a time when the Senate was not in session — that is, when it was in “the Recess.” Thus, background documents to the Constitution, in addition to the language itself, suggest that “the Recess” refers to the period between sessions that would end with the ensuing session of the Senate.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Knesset Member to Give Up American Citizenship

Previous posts have discussed dual citizenship and expatriation. The recent Israeli election brings both topics to the fore. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:
A dual American-Israeli citizen who was elected to the Knesset will have to give up his American citizenship when he takes office.

Rabbi Dov Lipman, elected Jan. 22 to the Knesset from the Yesh Atid party, is the third US citizen to serve in the Knesset and the first to voluntarily give up his citizenship, Haaretz reported.

Lipman is No. 17 on the list of the party headed by former television personality Yair Lapid; the party garnered the second highest vote total.

Lipman, of Beit Shemesh, immigrated to Israel from Silver Spring, Md., eight years ago.

Rabbi Meir Kahane was stripped of his US citizenship in 1984 after being sworn in to the Knesset. His attempts to regain his US citizenship failed.

Other Israeli Americans who gave up their citizenship to serve the Israeli government include Stanley Fischer, governor of the Bank of Israel, and Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador in Washington.
Israel’s Basic Law requires that a Knesset member with a second citizenship do “everything required on his part to be released from such citizenship.”
See State Department guidance on potentially expatriating acts.

Polarization and the Obama Presidency

During his fourth year in office, an average of 86% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans approved of the job Barack Obama did as president. That 76-percentage-point gap ties George W. Bush's fourth year as the most polarized years in Gallup records.

The list of most polarized years makes it clear that Obama's highly polarized ratings may be as much a reflection of the era in which he is governing as on Obama himself. The last nine presidential years -- the final five for Bush and Obama's first four -- all rank in the top 10. Thus, it appears that highly polarized ratings are becoming the norm, as Americans aligned with both parties are apparently not looking much beyond the president's party affiliation to evaluate the job he is doing.
Obama's record polarization last year also is owing to the electoral cycle. For most elected presidents, their fourth year in office -- the year all sought re-election -- was the most polarized year of their presidency. The election year likely causes Americans to view the president in more partisan terms, given his involvement in campaigning that year as well as the presence of an active opponent from the other party who is trying to defeat him. The lone exception to the pattern is Dwight Eisenhower, whose sixth year in office was his most polarized.
The average party gap in ratings of President Obama during the four years of his presidency is 70 percentage points. If that average holds, it would surpass Bush's record 61-point average polarization during his eight-year presidency by a considerable margin. Bush also finished his presidency with a significantly larger party gap in job approval ratings than the previous leader, Bill Clinton (55 points).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Union Membership in 2012

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
In 2012, the union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union—was 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent in 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.4 million, also declined over the year. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.
The data on union membership were collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation's civilian noninstitutional population ages 16 and over. For more information, see the Technical Note.
Highlights from the 2012 data:
  • Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.9 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.6 percent). (See table 3.)
  • Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rates, at 35.4 and 34.8 percent, respectively. (See table 3.)
  • Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
  • Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (23.2 percent), and North Carolina again had the lowest rate (2.9 percent). (See table 5.)

Textbook Themes and the Inaugural

Our textbook has a chapter on citizenship, with a discussion of the oath of citizenship.  The president's inaugural had a relevant passage:
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction. And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time -- not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals. (Applause.)
The speech also mentioned God six times (five as "God," once as "the Creator").  The president linked Him to energy and environmental policy:
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That's how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
That is just one of five reference to our "creed."    What is the creed?  Some would refer to the language of the Declaration.  Political scientists Samuel P. Huntington said that its five principles are  liberty, equality, individualism, representative government, and private property .

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama and Allusion

As mentioned before, it is common for presidents to allude to historic rhetoric, especially in their inaugural addresses.  President Obama did so several times yesterday:

"...that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth."
JFK's 1961 inaugural: "...that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God ... here on earth God's work must truly be our own."
"This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience."
JFK's 1961 inaugural: "...that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace."
"Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together."

A mashup of  Lincoln’s second inaugural – “until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword” -- his 1858 House Divided speech – “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free” – and Nixon’s 1969 inaugural – “No man can be fully free while his neighbor is not. To go forward at all is to go forward together.”
"My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it -- so long as we seize it together."
Clinton's 1993 inaugural: "Well, my fellow Americans, this is our time. Let us embrace it."
"But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action."
Clinton's 1993 inaugural: Thomas Jefferson believed that to preserve the very foundations of our Nation, we would need dramatic change from time to time.
"That is what will give real meaning to our creed." (The word "creed" appears five times in the address.)
 “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed”  --  Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream”

The Federal Balance Sheet

 The Financial Report of the US Government for Fiscal Year 2012 provides some very useful background on the meaning of the federal debt.
Image Credit: US Treasury Department

Chart 4 is a summary of what the Government owns in assets and what it owes in liabilities. As of September 30, 2012, the Government held about $2.7 trillion in assets, comprised mostly of net property, plant, and equipment ($855.0 billion) and a combined total of $1,009.1 billion in net loans receivable (e.g., student loans) and direct loans and investments associated with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the GSEs (which relate to the Government’s economic recovery efforts). In recent years, with the ongoing wind-down of these programs, the balances of many of these investments have declined primarily through repayments and sales. Beyond these assets, other significant resources are available to the Government, including stewardship assets, such as natural resources, and the Government’s power to tax and set monetary policy.
The $18.8 trillion in total liabilities is comprised mostly of: (1) $11.3 trillion in Federal debt securities held by the public and accrued interest and (2) $6.3 trillion in Federal employee and veteran benefits payable. The Government also reports about $4.9 trillion of intragovernmental debt outstanding, which arises when one part of the Government borrows from another. For example, Government funds (e.g., Social Security and Medicare trust funds) are typically required to invest excess annual receipts in Federal debt securities issued by the Treasury Department, thus creating liabilities of the Treasury and assets of the trust funds. These respective amounts are included in individual Treasury Department and investing agency financial statements, but offset each other when the Governmentwide consolidated financial statements are prepared. The sum of debt held by the public and intragovernmental debt equals gross Federal debt, which, with some adjustments, is subject to a statutory ceiling (i.e., the debt limit), which was most recently raised by $1.2 trillion to $16.394 trillion in January 2012 pursuant to the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.
As of September 30, 2012, the Government’s total debt outstanding subject to the debt limit was $16.027 trillion, $367 billion below the current limit. As budget deficits continue to occur, the Government will have to borrow more from the public. Instances where the debt held by the public increases faster than the economy for extended periods can pose additional challenges.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Religion at the Inauguration

A major theme of our textbook is the enduring influence of religion in American public life.  It was evident at the inauguration, where Myrlie Evers-Williams ended her invocation by saying:  "In Jesus’ name and the name of all who are holy and right we pray. Amen."  (Rev. Franklin Graham mentioned Jesus at the 2001 inaugural invocation, and drew criticism for it.)

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," a deeply religious and specifically Christian song.  See below, esp at 2:39:

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free;
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

President Obama Echoes President George H.W. Bush

In his inaugural address today, the president said:
We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
 "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
That passage bears a passing resemblance to what President George H.W. Bush said on April 13, 1991, at Maxwell Air Force Base:
But what defines this nation? What makes us America is not our ties to a piece of territory or bonds of blood; what makes us American is our allegiance to an idea that all people everywhere must be free. This idea is as old and enduring as this nation itself -- as deeply rooted, and what we are as a promise implicit to all the world in the words of our own Declaration of Independence.

Lincoln's Second Inaugural

Ronald C. White, who wrote a book about Lincoln's second inaugural [text here], explains in The New York Times why the speech was so great:
If his listeners expected a triumphalist address heralding a victorious North, they were instead asked to help initiate a new era of reconciliation — one marked “with malice toward none, with charity toward all.”
LINCOLN also surprised his audience by steeping his address in religious language. In those 701 words he mentioned God 14 times, referenced the Bible 4 times and emphasized the importance of prayer 3 times. The point is not to count but to listen to the way he invoked religion as a balm for a nation deeply divided.

Lincoln, so knowledgeable of the Constitution, understood that even though the founders separated church and state, America has never separated religion and politics. Lincoln is instructive in how religion can become inclusive. “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God,” he said, telling an audience angry at the deaths of so many sons that the South read the Bible as much as the North.

Lincoln made a final move that also set himself apart. Inaugural addresses can be exercises in self-congratulation, both of the candidate and the nation. In his second Inaugural Address Lincoln, quoting Matthew 18:7, lovingly scolded America. “Woe unto the world because of offenses,” he said. Lincoln dared to declare there was something evil at the core of this great nation: “If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offenses.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Jimmy Kimmel and the Inaugural Nonattitudes

Previous posts have discussed nonattitudes -- a phenomenon in which people express opinions even when they know nothing of the subject.  Jimmy Kimmel offers a new twist:  asking people what they thought about an inauguration that hadn't happened yet.

President Obama Takes the Oath

The inaugural ceremony takes place tomorrow, but the president took the oath of office today:

Interest Groups and the Inauguration Committee

The president has banned lobbyists from donating to his inaugural committee, but the ban does not apply to the groups that employ them.  The Center for Public Integrity reports:
Add Bank of America, Coca-Cola, FedEx and a collection of labor unions to the growing list of powerful lobbying forces underwriting the second inauguration of President Barack Obama — long a vocal critic of the influence industry and corporate political power.
The new inaugural bankrollers, the names of which the Presidential Inaugural Committee released this weekend, have together spent $124.3 million lobbying the federal government since Obama took office, a Center for Public Integrity review of federal disclosures shows.
Lobbying forces donating to Obama’s inaugural have spent nearly $283 million to influence the federal government since 2009 when including previously disclosed corporations, such as AT&T Inc., Microsoft Corp. and energy giant Southern Co. — a figure likely to grow as the inauguration committee releases the names of more new contributors.
(Read: Corporate backers poured $160 million into lobbying since 2009.)
FedEx has spent more than $64 million on federal lobbying since 2009, while Coca-Cola has spent nearly $25 million and Bank of America more than $12.8 million, federal disclosures show.
Politico provides some background:
Obama has made a habit of changing or finessing the rules on corporate giving for his top events like the Democratic National Convention and Inauguration. And the president, an outspoken critic of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, is facing a backlash from good-government groups and Democrats for accepting the corporate donations for the Inauguration and other events because they see it as selling access.
“He was elected by the people,” said Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen. “They are going to be the ones gathered at the Mall to hear his inaugural address. He should turn to them if he needs money to celebrate in the manner he wants.”

That’s the way it was four years ago, when corporate donors were blocked from giving to the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The donors, and how much they gave, were also disclosed. But with Obama donors fatigued after the billion-dollar campaign, the rules have changed. Corporate cash is in, there are no caps on donations and only a bare-bones list of donors’ names is provided.
In 2008, two-thirds of the cash for the Democratic National Convention, or $40 million, came from corporate sponsors. For 2012 in Charlotte, the Democrats said corporations would be banned from contributing. But through a separate account, the New American City Fund, convention organizers took in nearly $20 million in corporate cash, and the party accepted in-kind contributions from big-name companies such as AT&T, Duke Energy, Microsoft and Coca-Cola.
President Obama's new political organization, Organizing for Action, can accept unlimited corporate contributions. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

National Day of Service

On January 21, 2013, our nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (MLK Day), a national holiday during which we honor the legacy of the civil rights leader Dr. King through a day of service and volunteering.

This year, MLK Day commemorations will coincide with the Presidential Inauguration, so the President is asking all citizens to join him in participating in a National Day of Service on Saturday, January 19. Earlier today, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced that it will host a wide range of volunteering events in Washington, DC and around the country.
Additionally, the Committee is encouraging people to pledge a commitment to serve after MLK Day throughout 2013.
Here is the official logo:

A few days ago, the president's political committee sent out this email:
This Saturday, Michelle and I are heading out to events as part of the National Day of Service.
It's a day to put politics aside, give back to our communities, and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by following his example. If we want to bring about change, it has to start with us, person by person and block by block.
So today I'm asking all Americans to join me, and make a commitment to serve their communities - this weekend, and throughout 2013.
Pledge to serve by adding your name here.
Then, take a look to see what events are happening near you:
I wanted service to be a big part of my inauguration because it's played a huge role in my life.
As a young community organizer starting out in Chicago, I learned that the best ideas, the ones that succeed, take hold at the grassroots. No one needs to wait on politicians or Washington: Change happens when individuals take responsibility for one another and their communities.
At the Day of Service in 2009, I visited with military families and wounded service members at the Walter Reed Medical Center and painted walls at a homeless shelter. Joe packed his toolbox and helped Habitat for Humanity hang drywall in new housing in D.C., while my girls, Michelle, and Dr. Jill Biden filled care packages for our troops overseas.
Be part of the inauguration -- make a long-term commitment to serving your community:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Opinion on Limiting Power

As we discussed in our chapter on citizenship and civic culture, Americans have long been suspicious of concentrations of power.  Gallup reports that those suspicions are alive and well:
Americans continue to be worried about the effects of big companies and big government, with 35% saying they are very or somewhat satisfied with the size and influence of major corporations, and 36% saying they are very or somewhat satisfied with the size and power of the federal government. Both of these levels of satisfaction are up slightly from the last two years, but significantly below satisfaction levels recorded in the early years of the last decade, when satisfaction with government was generally higher than satisfaction with major corporations.
Americans are also suspicious of the entrenched incumbents that they reelect.  Gallup reports:
Even after the 2012 election in which Americans re-elected most of the sitting members of the U.S. House and Senate -- as is typical in national elections -- three-quarters of Americans say that, given the opportunity, they would vote "for" term limits for members of both houses of Congress.

Republicans and independents are slightly more likely than Democrats to favor term limits; nevertheless, the vast majority of all party groups agree on the issue. Further, Gallup finds no generational differences in support for the proposal.

These findings, from Gallup Daily tracking conducted Jan. 8-9, are similar to those from 1994 to 1996 Gallup polls, in which between two-thirds and three-quarters of Americans said they would vote for a constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms that members of Congress and the U.S. Senate can serve.
As in the past, they would also scrap the electoral college:
Americans are nearly as open to major electoral reform when it comes to doing away with the Electoral College. Sixty-three percent would abolish this unique, but sometimes controversial, mechanism for electing presidents that was devised by the framers of the Constitution. While constitutional and statutory revisions have been made to the Electoral College since the nation's founding, numerous efforts to abolish it over the last 200+ years have met with little success

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wealthy Members of Congress

Members of Congress are different from you and me.  They have more money.  From Open Secrets:
Ninety-four new senators and House members joined the 113th Congress. But if voters felt the last group of lawmakers was out of touch with "real America," the new class may not be better. In fact, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, the median estimated net worth of the incoming freshmen is almost exactly $1 million more than that of the typical American household.

According to data collected from personal financial disclosure forms filed by all members of Congress and candidates who succeeded at the polls in November, the median net worth of the 94 incoming lawmakers at the end of 2011 was $1,066,515. The most recent numbers available from the U.S. Census show that the median net worth of the typical American household is $66,740.
Looking at all members of Congress, Democrats tend to be slightly wealthier: The median net worth for Democratic members is $990,508 compared to a median of $907,014 for Republicans. In the House, where the median net worth is estimated to be $856,009, Democrats are wealthier than Republicans, with Democratic members' median estimated net worth at $910,505, compared with that of the Republicans at just $789,008. In the Senate, though, where the median estimated net worth for all members is $2.5 million, the Republicans still have the edge -- $2.56 million to $2.47 million -- over their Democratic colleagues.

Lawmakers, Demographics, and Veterans

The 113th Congress is in session. But, who are they?
Lawyers, mostly. How do we know? A terrific chart from Businessweek that breaks down all of the professions of the new Congress. There are 128 lawyers in the House and another 45 in the Senate. Somewhat remarkably, there only 55 career politicians in the House and another nine in the Senate. (The Fix would have bet the “over” on both of those numbers.) There’s also one microbiologist, one carpenter and one physicist.
In comparison to the 112th Congress, there are six less veterans in the House and six less in the Senate as well — the latest evidence of the steady decline in those who have served in the military in Congress. (New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg is the only member of the Senate who served in World War II.)
Previous posts have discussed veterans in CongressThe New York Times notes that 16 lawmakers served in Iraq or Afghanistan, including nine new members.
But the number of veterans joining Congress continued a four-decade long slide, dropping to 106 in the 113th Congress, according to data from CQ Roll Call.
The Senate will have 18 veterans, down from a peak of 81 in 1977 and the lowest since at least World War II, according to data from the Senate Historical Office. The House will have 88 veterans, down from a peak of 347 in 1977, according to the Military Officers Association of America.
The new crop of veterans includes the first two female combat veterans to serve in Congress, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, both Democrats.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

William Rusher

David Frisk discusses his excellent biography of William Rusher, a major figure in the conservative political movement:


Awareness of Roe v. Wade

A number of posts have dealt with public knowledge about issues and institutions. As we near the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Pew Research Center finds significance differences in what people know of the decision:
About six-in-ten Americans (62%) know that Roe v. Wade dealt with the issue of abortion. Much smaller percentages incorrectly associate the decision with school desegregation (7%), the death penalty (5%) or environmental protection (5%); 20% do not know.
Among those younger than 30, just 44% know that the case was about abortion; 16% say it dealt with school desegregation, and 41% either say it dealt with another issue (the death penalty or the environment), or do not know. Majorities of older age groups know that Roe v. Wade dealt with abortion.
There also are educational differences in awareness of which issue Roe v. Wade addressed. Fully 91% of those with post-graduate education know it dealt with abortion, as do 79% of college graduates, 63% of those with only some college experience and 47% of those with no more than a high school education.
Identical percentages of women and men (62% each) are aware that Roe dealt with abortion.
Nearly seven-in-ten Republicans (68%) answered this question correctly, compared with 63% of independents and 57% of Democrats.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Empire Strikes Back -- With a Press Release

IMPERIAL CENTER, CORUSCANT – The overwhelming military superiority of the Galactic Empire has been confirmed once again by therecent announcement by the President of the United States that his nation would not attempt to build a Death Star, despite the bellicose demands of the people of his tiny, aggressive planet. “It is doubtless that such a technological terror in the hands of so primitive a world would be used to upset the peace and sanctity of the citizens of the Galactic Empire,“ said Governor Wilhuff Tarkin of the Outer Rim Territories. “Such destructive power can only be wielded to protect and defend by so enlightened a leader as Emperor Palpatine.”

Representatives on behalf of the nation-state leader from the unimaginatively named planet refused to acknowledge the obvious cowardice of their choice, preferring instead to attribute the decision to fiscal responsibility. “The costs of construction they cited were ridiculously overestimated, though I suppose we must keep in mind that this miniscule planet does not have our massive means of production,” added Admiral Conan Motti of the Imperial Starfleet.
Emissaries of the Emperor also caution any seditious elements within the Galactic Senate not to believe Earth’s exaggerated claims of there being a weakness in the Death Star design. “Any attacks made upon such a station — should one ever be built — would be a useless gesture,” added Motti.

The Decline of Journalism

Get your mind around this: A fake news show presents a perceptive story on the decline of real journalism:

Andrew Revkin writes at The New York Times:
There’s been a flurry of blog, Facebook andTwitter shock and anger following Katherine Bagley’s exclusive report for Inside Climate News on the decision by The New York Times to shut down its standalone environment “pod” and redistribute that able team of reporters and editors to other desks (not necessarily other duties).
In the piece, top Times editors insist that this move will not diminish or dilute the paper’s commitment to sustained, effective environmental coverage.
I believe them (with a caveat; see below). In a century when the roots of environmental problems often lie half a planet away (consider the ivory trade, or the contribution of greenhouse gases and soot to Arctic ice melting) what’s needed most is collaborative post-departmental journalism, not individual desks and editors competing for the front page.
Others with lots of journalism experience have different views. My friend Dan Fagin, who teaches journalism at New York University after a long career at Newsday, posted this reaction on my Facebook item on the development this morning:
[W]ithout a designated staff your editor would have to rely completely on borrowing reporters from other desks, and editors on those desks would get no credit from management for any environmental stories their borrowed reporters produce. Meanwhile, the reporters themselves would feel the pressure from their desk editors — the editors who do their evaluations — to stay on their own desks. It sets up an adversarial system that has already failed in many newsrooms. The best solution is what the Times has sadly dismantled: a small dedicated staff with diverse skills AND the ability to tap other expert writers when appropriate.
... And here’s the caveat. What’s happening in the paper’s newsroom (and much more so in other newsrooms!) is not specific to the environment. As today’s post noted, the religion and education desks have had a smilar fate.

Taking the Citizenship Oath in Afghanistan

-Patriotism means many things to different people. In fact, it has even taken on a political connotation during the past few years. For service members deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, it means a long journey has finally come to fruition.
Thirty one service members from 19 different countries became naturalized U.S. citizens in a ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 2. The service members' ceremony was presided over by Elvis Quiles, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's overseas adjudications officer for Bangkok, Thailand. The Oath of Allegiance was administered by Pius Bannis, the USCIS district director for Bangkok.
Coming from countries as far away as Norway, Jamaica, Laos, Kenya, Japan and Moldova, the service members were very diverse in their heritage. One common denominator they all shared though, was their desire to become U.S. citizens.

Sgt. Grena Kirk, an aircraft electrician with Bravo Company, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, was one of the proud new U.S. citizens. Kirk is originally from the Philippines and has been serving in the U.S Army as a legal resident.

Currently assigned to Kandahar Airfield in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Kirk traveled to BAF to participate in the naturalization ceremony.
"Becoming a U.S. citizen offers me more freedom. I can actually vote now," said Kirk. "Being in the military, I can now look for different [jobs] which require a security clearance. Becoming a citizen just opens up more doors and offers me more opportunities."

Becoming a naturalized citizen is a method for people who were not born in the U.S. to become citizens. Naturalized citizens swear by oath "to renounce and abjure their allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty and swear to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic."
In attendance at the ceremony was recently appointed U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, James B. Cunningham, who greeted each service member personally with a congratulatory handshake and encouraging words.

"Today is a great recognition, these are always very impressive ceremonies to welcome new citizens into the family of America," said Cunningham. "To see their desire to become U.S. citizens is always a wonderful thing."

"The fact that they joined up to serve my country, which will now become their country, before they were citizens is a demonstration of their commitment to the United States and their desire to be part of the American family," added Cunningham.

Another servic emember being naturalized was U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Valentin Straticiuc, who is originally from Odessa, Ukraine. Straticiuc, now referring to New York as his home, is an infantry rifleman with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Making the journey from Forward Operating Base Geronimo, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, to BAF, Straticiuc was ecstatic to become a U.S. citizen.
"Becoming a U.S. citizen means everything to me," said Straticiuc. "It means I'm fighting for the country that has given me more than I believe any other country would have."
"In my home country I could have dreamed of goals and died with those dreams," added Straticiuc. "In this country though, I can make those goals happen."

A Deliberative Cabinet

Raymond Smith, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, writes in The New York Times about deliberation within the executive branch:
Over the past half-century, however, the expansion of the White House staff has centralized deliberation and decision making increasingly within the confines of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. This reliance on professional staffers, political advisers and media spinmeisters within a constrictive White House “security bubble” deprives presidents not only of the deep substantive policy expertise of top civil servants but also of the political judgment of cabinet members who are often successful politicians.
A strengthened cabinet could promote frank and creative deliberation, help coordinate policy across government and make sure all members are delivering the same political message. All of this could go far in staving off the inertia and drift so common in presidential second terms.
Smith's suggestions include the following:
Employ the cabinet as a deliberative body: Cabinet meetings have become little more than occasional photo ops. Under Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, for example, cabinet meetings were held monthly; the Obama team has met less than one-third as often. By contrast, the British, German and many other parliamentary cabinets meet weekly to assure that the entire team shares a common and coordinated vision. More regular and meaningful cabinet meetings could strengthen links across departments and with the White House staff, bolstering cooperation and reducing overlap and miscommunication.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Jury Duty

Previous posts (including a first-hand account of my own experience) have discussed jury duty.  Andrew Guthrie Ferguson has a new book on the subject, from NYU Press:

It’s easy to forget how important the jury really is to America. The right to be a juror is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all eligible citizens. The right to trial by jury helped spark the American Revolution, was quickly adopted at the Constitutional Convention, and is the only right that appears in both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But for most of us, a jury summons is an unwelcome inconvenience. Who has time for jury duty? We have things to do.
In Why Jury Duty Matters, Andrew Guthrie Ferguson reminds us that whether we like it or not, we are all constitutional actors. Jury duty provides an opportunity to reflect on that constitutional responsibility. Combining American history, constitutional law, and personal experience, the book engages citizens in the deeper meaning of jury service. Interweaving constitutional principles into the actual jury experience, this book is a handbook for those Americans who want to enrich the jury experience. It seeks to reconnect ordinary citizens to the constitutional character of a nation by focusing on the important, and largely ignored, democratic lessons of the jury. 
Jury duty is a shared American tradition. It connects people across class and race, creates habits of focus and purpose, and teaches values of participation, equality, and deliberation. We know that juries are important for courts, but we don’t know that jury service is important for democracy. This book inspires us to re-examine the jury experience and act on the constitutional principles that guide our country before, during, and after jury service.
At the NYU Press blog, Pete Hahn reflects on his own experience.  He was previously reluctant to serve.
This year, I was called again, and things were different.  First of all, the commissioner of jurors and the welcoming judge both made speeches that acknowledged that everyone in the room just wanted to get out of it … but also explained why it was so important.  What stuck with me was not the concept of “civic duty,” but the idea of jury service as public service.  This country really does not ask much of its citizens:  you do not have to vote, you do not have to worship, you do not have to serve in the military… all that is really asked of us is that we obey the law, pay our taxes, and, when summoned, appear for jury duty.  Not much to ask for all of the freedoms we enjoy.
Regardless of what that verdict is, when you, the Jury, file back into the courtroom to read the verdict to the defendant, judge, and attorneys, it is impossible not to feel the weight of the situation, impossible not to wonder whether you “got it right.”   What you realize at that moment is that this is how the system is supposed to work.  The judge doesn’t get to decide.  The D.A. doesn’t decide.  The jury decides whether the prosecution proved their case.  The defendant is presumed innocent until and unless the prosecution meets that burden of proof.  And twelve ordinary citizens got to make that decision.  And the awesome responsibility of being part of that decision, watching justice in action, being part of a system that works – I realize that serving on a jury is a privilege, not a duty.  If people only knew about this part of the process, we would have a line of citizens trying to get chosen, instead of trying to get excused.  I’m just sorry that I have to wait six more years for my next summons.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Political Pressure and "Zero Dark Thirty"

Focusing on a CIA analyst, "Zero Dark Thirty" tells how the United States got Osama bin Laden.  Despite near-universal acclaim, director Kathryn Bigelow did not get an Oscar nomination this week.  At The Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan has a theory:
Back on Dec. 19, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) wrote an open letter to "express our deep disappointment with 'Zero Dark Thirty.' We believe the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Usama Bin Laden."
To anyone who knows the academy's traditional aversion to controversy (for example, disagreement dogged "The People vs. Larry Flynt" and the highly regarded "The Hurricane" ended up with only one nomination, for star Denzel Washington, after questions were raised about its accuracy) knew that letter meant Oscar trouble for "Zero." It's not even that surprising that it was the directors who caved in to the drumbeat of condemnation. As one of the smaller voting branches of the academy, it is more susceptible to the vagaries of outside pressure.
The senators are within their constitutional rights to insist that "Zero" says that torture led the CIA directly to Bin Laden, but that is not the film I saw. Of the two key prisoners who are tortured on camera, one flat out lies to the interrogators and the other never says anything no matter what is done to him. Hardly a ringing endorsement of enhanced interrogation techniques.
The CIA does get a piece of information from that recalcitrant man, but it is the guile of interrogators employed well after the torture that does the trick. If "Zero Dark Thirty" has any message about what led to Bin Laden's location, it's that, rather than torture, it was the slow, meticulous, painstaking gathering of information over nearly a decade by Chastain's character Maya that did the job.
The Huffington Post reports:
As recent as this week, the debate about whether "Zero Dark Thirty" is pro-torture remained in play. As TheWrap notes, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences member David Clennon said he would not vote for the film in any Oscar category because of its content. "Zero Dark Thirty" scored a nomination for Best Picture, but Bigelow was snubbed in the Best Director category at the Academy Awards, putting the overall awards picture of the film in heavy doubt. (The 1989 film "Driving Miss Daisy" was the last Best Picture winner to capture the award without a corresponding Best Director nomination.) It's worth noting, however, that Boal did receive a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
“Torture is an appalling crime under any circumstances,” Clennon wrote in a blog post. "'Zero' never acknowledges that torture is immoral and criminal. It does portray torture as getting results.”
"We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status in AMPAS as a platform to advance their own political agenda," [Sony co-chair Amy] Pascal Pascal said in her statement. "This film should be judged free of partisanship. To punish an Artist's right of expression is abhorrent. This community, more than any other, should know how reprehensible that is. While we fully respect everyone’s right to express their opinion, this activity is really an affront to the Academy and artistic creative freedom."

Jack Lew

Previous posts have discussed "revolving doors" linking government service both to the interest group community and the press. One example is White House chief of staff Jack Lew, the president's nominee for Treasury secretary.  Open Secrets reports:
Lew is known inside Washington circles first and foremost as a budget wonk and has recently gained a reputation as a shrewd negotiator in the White House. But he also has a revolving door past, a history that includes deep ties to the federal government and Wall Street, an industry he'll work closely with if he gets the job.

Lew has twice served as head of the Office of Management and Budget, most recently from 2010-2011, and had a leading role at the State Department in between. His first major D.C. posts, however, were on Capitol Hill. Lew worked for two lawmakers in the 1970s and '80s, including as a senior policy advisor for former Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill.

Lew's Wall Street history was comparatively brief but notable: He was a managing director of Citigroup Alternative Investments. Lew rode out the 2008 financial crisis from that perch. His sizable compensation package has left some, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), with questions about why Lew was paid so handsomely at a time of such industry upheaval.

Prior to his Wall Street years, Lew also practiced law as a partner at the firm Van Ness Feldman and Curtis, where he gained an intimate familiarity with energy-based issues -- as well as many prominent energy firms.
The Washington Post elaborates:
In early 2008, he became a top executive in the Citigroup unit that housed many of the bank’s riskiest operations, including its hedge funds and private equity investments. Massive losses in that unit helped drive Citigroup into the arms of the federal government, which bailed out the bank with $45 billion in taxpayer money that year.
The group had been under pressure to compete with similar units at other big Wall Street firms and, some analysts say, took on too many risks as it played catch-up.
“The mismanagement of risk was comprehensive at that organization,” said Simon Johnson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

An Alternative Scenario for 1988

CNN's Gut Check asks: What if the 1988 presidential race had been Gary Hart vs. George Bush?
For a good part of 1987, former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Hart was a moderate centrist Democrat that faired [sic] fairly well in the 1984 Democratic primary and to many, his nomination the second time around seemed obvious.
But rumors of extramarital affairs dogged the campaign. Hart responded to them by daring the media. “Follow me around,” Hart told the New York Times. “I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored.”
Hart proved to be very wrong. In May 1987, the Miami Herald published a story that accused the presidential frontrunner of having an affair with 29-year-old model Donna Rice. Hart’s approval began to plummet and he dropped out a week after the story broke, leaving the door open for a more liberal Democrat, Michael Dukakis, to eventually win the party’s nomination.
But Dukakis went on to be trounced by the Republican nominee, former Vice President George H.W. Bush, who both cashed in on the popularity of Ronald Reagan, his predecessor, and highlighted a strong economy. Bush went on to carry 40 states and 426 electoral votes, compared to Dukakis’ 10 states and 111 votes.
But suppose Hart’s campaign hadn’t imploded. What if Gary Hart had wised up about his tomcat ways and kept his pants zipped at least until after the election - or at least been discreet enough to not get caught fooling around?
Would a moderate democrat [sic] had faired [sic] better against Bush? Or would Bush have trounced Hart like  [sic] he crushed Dukakis? Who would have won a Hart/Bush matchup in 1988?
The answer:  Bush would still have won.  Why?

First, the in-party benefits when the economy is strong, which was the case during the campaign.  Real GDP grew by 4.1 percent in 1988

Second, the Cold War was waning, so the GOP had the peace card.  But it wasn't quite over, so it also had the "red  phone" card.  That is, people were still very concerned that the president should be able to respond to an international crisis.  As a military veteran, former ambassador and CIA director, and as incumbent vice president, Bush had sterling credentials.  Hart had no military or government executive experience, and he faced character questions even before the scandal.  In the 1984 Democratic nomination campaign, Walter Mondale explicitly used the red phone in an ad:

Third, the premise of the question is dubious.  Even if he had avoided this particular scandal, Hart's judgment was so poor that some other incident would almost surely have occurred.  The CNN post errs about his voting record, which may have started in the center, but was firmly on the left by the end of his Senate tenure.  The liberal Americans for Democratic Action gave him a 100 percent score in 1985 and 95 in 1986.

By the way, Bush's 1988 victory was bigger than most people remember.  He got a greater share of both the popular and electoral vote than Obama did 20 years later.  He was the last Republican to date to carry these states:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont