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November 21, 2008

The Final Count

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It may not be Palm Beach County circa 2000, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been following the Minnesota Senate recount, triggered when votes cast for incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and comedian and political rookie Al Franken (DFL) gave Coleman the victory with a margin of less than 0.5 percent. There isn't any talk of chads--hanging, dimpled, or otherwise--because Minnesota uses fill-in-the-bubble optical scan ballots. But people still managed to mangle casting their vote for their intended candidate.

A fascinating poll on MPR's news site shows off some of the challenged ballots (such as the one shown here), and with them all of the ways that it's possible to mess up filling in that little bubble. It's a cautionary tale for the S.A.T.-bound or other standardized test-takers nationwide.

Challenged Ballots [MPR, via kottke]
Patience and Politeness as Minnesota Recounts Senate Ballots
Recount Results

MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert

March 19, 2008

Go Forth and Stimulate the Economy

0803Money.jpgThe IRS plans to start the first round of economic stimulus payments on May 2. All payments will occur automatically according to the last two digits of Social Security numbers of people who file their tax returns. Those who provide direct deposit information will have their payments deposited automatically. Everyone else will receive a check in the mail, albeit at a slower pace.

If you're dying of curiosity, the IRS has created an Economic Stimulus Payment Calculator to help you estimate the size of your new flat screen TV. There is also a payment schedule on the site.

IRS Announces Economic Stimulus Payment Schedules, Provides Online Payment Calculator

Name that group... from the Flickr page of DRB62

February 13, 2008

Delegates, Super and Otherwise

supertuesdayvoting.jpgIn 2000, it seemed that everyone took a crash course on how the electoral college worked. This year's civics lesson seems to be about party delegates. Who are they? Where do they come from? Why do "superdelegates" harness such power!?

You're not alone. The Wikipedia entry on superdelegates was a stub until December 2007, but has undergone more than 100 edits since Super Tuesday.

Most news sites have picked up the issue:

Image: Voting in Super Tuesday Massachusetts from Financial Aid Podcast's Flickr stream

January 25, 2008

The Race for the White House

RConv08_predictions.jpg Elections have been referred to as horse races, so why not bet on them? In advance of the 2008 elections in the U.S., the online magazine Slate will be tracking the results from four political prediction markets:

The impetus for this undertaking is the frequency with which big political prediction markets have forecast election winners, making them "consistently" more accurate than pre-election polls, according to Slate. And as in horse racing, shares in a candidate who's perceived to have little chance of winning will pay off more if he or she is indeed chosen.

2008 Political Futures (Slate)

Graphic: Snapshot of the Iowa Electronic Markets' 2008 U.S. Republican National Convention Market, between Mar. 2007 and Jan. 24, 2008. The graph shows the recent decline of Giuliani and the rise of McCain and Romney.

December 26, 2007

Election 2008: $$$ vs. $$$$$

rudy.jpg

We may have mentioned this site on our blog before, but in the run-up to the Iowa caucus and primary season, I'd like to refer people to OpenSecrets, a website run by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. For the first time, the presidential candidates are on pace to raise over $1 billion to fund their campaigns. OpenSecrets tracks donations made to candidates' campaign funds, and analyzes the data in ways that you don't usually see in the news.

Find out which Senate or House campaign has raised (and spent) the most money, which presidential candidate is receiving the most funds from lobbyists (Hillary Clinton) or the oil and gas industry (Rudy Giuliani), and which candidate has raised the most through small ($200 or less) donations (Barack Obama). It's a pretty interesting tool for those who want to think about where campaign funds are coming from, and where they might go.

OpenSecrets

Flickr photo by Victory NH: Protect Our Primary

December 4, 2007

True, Half-True, or Pants on Fire!?

Pants_On_Fire.jpg We previously blogged about Annenberg Political Fact Check, or FactCheck.org, which tracks the veracity of statements put out by public officials.

A recent Utne article highlighted some similar projects, including PolitiFact.com. PolitiFact.com is a joint project of the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly. Statements made by the 2008 presidential candidates, including ones attacking their political opponents, are subjected to PolitiFact's "Truth-O-Meter."

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, for example, was called out for being "pants-on-fire" wrong for his claim during a Oct. 21, 2007, debate in Orlando that "The signers of the Declaration of Independence were 'brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen.'" PolitiFact.com notes that only one out of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence was a clergyman. (Huckabee could have double-checked the accuracy of his statement against the World Almanac 2008, which lists on page 496 the occupation of each signer of the declaration. Half of those who signed were judges or lawyers.)

What's also neat about PolitiFact.com is that each entry lists who researched the statement and the sources they used, along with links. That kind of transparency makes it possible for readers to fact-check the fact-checkers and ensure, ideally, that the project maintains its commitment to the truth instead of to political interests.

Links:
PolitiFact.com
"The Fifth Estate" (Utne Reader)

Previously: "Checking Up On Your Favorite Candidates*"

Image: Democratic candidate John Edwards earned a pants-on-fire rating for his claim in a TV ad that as president, he would take away health care from Congressional and administration members if universal health care coverage was not passed. Problem is that presidents don't have that authority—they only have the power to introduce legislation to take away health care.

November 12, 2007

Presidential Veto and Override Counts

20060719_Bush.jpg Pres. George W. Bush only issued his first veto in July of last year, when he rejected a bill that would have lifted federal funding restrictions on stem cell research. On Thursday, Nov. 8, Bush faced his first upset when Congress voted to override his Nov. 2 veto of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007.

That got me wondering about the total number of vetoes he's exercised so far in his presidency. His latest veto was only his fifth, relatively few considering that Bill Clinton exercised 37 total vetoes as president, George H. W. Bush 44, and Ronald Reagan 78.

These figures, along with number of vetoes (both regular and pocket) by president since 1789, are listed on p. 441 of the forthcoming 2008 World Almanac, which is officially released tomorrow, Nov. 13.

Detailed information on what bills have been vetoed, the text of these bills, and how Congressional members voted can be found under the heading "Vetoes" in the Legislation and Procedure section of the Senate Virtual Reference Desk.

Links:
Virtual Reference Desk (U.S. Senate)
THOMAS database of legislative information (Library of Congress)
Previously: "The First 100 Hours and How to Track Them" on the GovTrack.us database on the 110th U.S. Congress

Photo: President discusses stem cell research policy, July 19, 2006. White House photo by Kimberlee Hewitt.

October 26, 2007

Checking Up On Your Favorite Candidates*

(* And the other ones, too.)

Romney / GiulianiI'm surprised we haven't blogged about this one before: FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, which holds political candidates (no matter what party they represent) to task for mis-statements, distorted facts, and outright untruths in major speeches, debates, and other appearances. It's the kind of detailed fact-checking you expect, but rarely get, from major media outlets—and it's an incredibly useful resource as we head for a contentious primary season. An example of a recent summary:

Tongues were sharpened before Sunday night's GOP presidential debate in Orlando, with the candidates drawing blood right out of the gate. We found them factually challenged in several areas:
  • Giuliani stretched till he broke, in calling Thompson "the single biggest obstacle to tort reform" in the Senate.
  • Romney boasted of his Massachusetts health care plan and criticized Hillary Clinton's, although her plan is strikingly similar to Romney's Massachusetts program. He also falsely accused her of favoring "all-government insurance."
  • Giuliani claimed the price of health insurance would drop more than 50 percent if millions more people purchased it directly, a statement unsupported by any evidence he's offered so far.
  • Thompson said the most affluent 40 percent of Americans pay "about 99 percent of the taxes." Actually, they pay less than 85 percent, and also have nearly 74 percent of all the income.
  • Giuliani made an inflated boast about bringing down crime in New York "more than anyone in this country - maybe in the history of this country." But the decline started before he took office, continued after he left, and even the FBI itself warns against attributing crime statistics to any specific cause.

Link: FactCheck.org

September 24, 2007

Wake Up With Wobbly Willy (and Whoopi)

Campaign ButtonsAs promised, I am almost caught up with posting our backlog of World Almanac segments on Whoopi Goldberg's morning radio show. Today's posting brings us all the way up to September 13, when I stopped by to talk about:
  • Nasty presidential campaigns (and candidate nicknames) in U.S. history
  • Why you should immediately click through to the Library of Congress (as long as you have time to spare)
  • And a little background on the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Keep checking back here for future conversations, or tune in and listen live at around 7:30 (Eastern time) every Thursday morning, online, or on the radio.

Listen: Whoopi-091307.mp3

Image from brighterworlds' Flickr stream

September 7, 2007

Coaching Pays

football.jpg With the commencement of college football season, the Kansas City Star took it upon itself to reveal what probably isn't a shock to anyone who follows college football: college football coaches, even those coaching at public universities, are very, very well compensated for their gridiron grit. The paper compared each state's governor's salary with its highest paid coach, who was most often a football coach. The result: Coaches 49, Governors 1.

And that one point the governors won? It doesn't really count, at least according to the Star:

Alaska

Gov.: Sarah Palin, $125,000

Highest Paid Coach: Dave Shyiak, Alaska-Anchorage ice hockey, $112,000

(NOTE: There is no college football in Alaska)

Find where your state lies on the coaching payscale at the link below.
(Warning to residents of Florida: Your governor makes less than 5 percent of its two highest paid coaches' salaries. Of course, given how 2006-07 turned out for Florida football and basketball, you probably don't care.)

Governors vs. Coaches

Flickr photo by shortstopeleven

April 11, 2007

Working at the White House

whitehouse.jpg As if it weren't already hard enough to be president of the United States—now former, current, and prospective holders of the nation's highest office have something else to worry about: loose-lipped servants. The Working White House, a Smithsonian exhibition scheduled to be featured around the country as a traveling exhibit in 2008, chronicles the lives of White House employees, in their own words, from 1800 to the present. Some of the reminiscences are mundane, such as a story about First Lady Sarah Polk's inattention to napkin folding. Others are quite attuned to their era: shortly after the Plessy v. Ferguson decision condoned a system of "separate but equal" treatment, the White House servants' dinner tables were realigned on racial lines rather than job function. There's even a story about the lengths employees went to to meet Lyndon Johnson's shower preferences: according to White House employee Howard Arrington, "He wanted [the jets] to hit all parts of his body with the same force. . .Rex Scouten in the usher's office got in the shower to test it out, and it pinned Rex right to the wall."

But my favorite is a story about Pres. Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower's growing addiction to a new "electronic novelty":

According to [Assistant Chief Usher J.B.] West, Ike and Mamie Eisenhower regularly watched the evening news while having their meals on tray-tables. He notes that Mrs. Eisenhower's enjoyment of As the World Turns "initiated the Television Era in the White House."

The Working White House
Workers at the White House Time Line [first-hand accounts]

April 6, 2007

President Nixon Kissinger

kiss.jpg Of course we know that Henry Kissinger has never entered a room to the tune of "Hail to the Chief." And he never will. (He was born in Furth, Germany, and moved to the U.S. as a teenager, making him ineligible for this country's highest office. Unless Schwarzenegger has something to say about it.) But a fascinating collection of documents and transcripts recently made available from the Nixon administration archives shows that as the White House began unraveling in the wake of the Watergate investigation, Kissinger wielded more power than perhaps any other senior administration official in the history of the executive branch.

Historian Robert Dallek's new book Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power examines over 20,000 pages of candid telephone transcripts that lend an almost frightening level of transparency to the decision-making process in the Nixon White House. (In the case of these transcripts, President Nixon had nothing to do with the conversations being recorded; Kissinger's standard operating procedure was to have an assistant listen in on conversations and transcribe them verbatim.)

As National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Kissinger made decisions of utmost importance, sometimes without even consulting the President. When Russia was threatening to land troops in Israel to enforce the Yom Kippur War cease fire in 1973, Kissinger was the one who made the decision to force them to back down by going into elevating the U.S. to DEFCON 3 (Defense Condition 3). The U.S. had only raised its military readiness to that point once before, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and twice since, during the first Iraq War and on September 11, 2001.

The transcripts also reveal a quite a bit about Nixon's state of mind as his presidency waned—in one, also during the height of the Yom Kippur War crisis, Kissinger refuses to let the British Prime Minister speak with the president because Nixon is intoxicated.

You can find an excerpt of Dallek's book below, or view PDFs of the transcribed conversations at the National Security Archive—including a side-by-side comparison of a Kissinger transcription with Nixon's tape of the same conversation.

Note: Both links contain language that may offend some readers.

Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (excerpt)
The Kissinger Telecons

March 15, 2007

'Tis nobler in the mind to plead insanity

Hamlet.jpgTonight, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will preside over a very important issue. One debated by many a scholar, student, and, um… Cliffs Notes editor, aaaaand… all right, it’s not that pervasive of a question, but:

Was Hamlet barmy? Cuckoo? Bonkers? Mental? Insane in the membrane?

As part of the Shakespeare in Washington (D.C.) festival (January-June) the Kennedy Center is hosting a debate on just that issue, and the audience gets to decide. Lawyers (including Court TV anchor Catherine Crier) will argue whether the prince of Denmark is mentally fit to stand trial for the murder of Polonius. Anthony Kennedy will be the judge. Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, will host.

This is just one in a series of Shakespeare's plays adapted for a mock trial in D.C. since 1994, when Kennedy sat in on the same trial.

The insanity defense didn’t work.

The Supreme Court Hears the Trial of Hamlet

Poster of Edwin Booth (yes, brother of John Wilkes) as Hamlet from the Library of Congress

March 5, 2007

Cefquinome and Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

cefquinome.jpg Cefquinome is an antibiotic (made by Intervet, Inc.) that the FDA may soon approve for use in cattle. Usually, this wouldn’t cause much of a stir outside the medical or veterinary industries, but according to the Washington Post, approval of cefquinome may have negative consequences on a global scale. Some doctors fear that overuse of the powerful antibiotic may speed the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria. Proponents argue that the risk outweighs the reward. But a curious point is that FDA’s own advisory board rejected approval of cefquinome last fall (in a non-binding resolution), and a number of health organizations, including the American Medical Association, have also come out against it. According to the Post article, a recently implemented “guidance document” called “Guidance for Industry #152,” codifies how the FDA should weigh the risk/reward of new animal drugs. In an excerpt from the article:
The wording of "Guidance for Industry #152" was crafted within the FDA after a long struggle. In the end, the agency adopted language that, for drugs like cefquinome, is more deferential to pharmaceutical companies than is recommended by the World Health Organization. Cefquinome's seemingly inexorable march to market shows how a few words in an obscure regulatory document can sway the government's approach to protecting public health.
It'll be interesting to see how or if this'll play out in a more visible public forum. It should be noted that no antibiotic from the class in which cefquinome belongs has been approved in the U.S. for animal use.

"FDA Rules Override Warnings About Drug," Washington Post, March 4, 2007
Reuters Synopsis of above article
"Introduction to Cefquinome (CEQ) and Overview of Microbial Safety Assessment" (FDA information page)
FDA Guidelines: Guidance for Industry #152" (PDF)

February 9, 2007

I Want a New Drug

pills.jpg A few weeks ago, the FDA announced the beginning of a pilot program to issue "report cards" to keep closer tabs on the side effects of new drugs. Coming in the wake of the 2004 Vioxx recall, the program is a response to a report by the Institute of Medicine that criticized the FDA's drug safety tracking. Several senators proposed legislation to form a separate group within the FDA to track already marketed drugs on February 8.

These developments reminded me of an article I read a few months back that looks at the complexities of balancing the need to safeguard the public from potentially harmful new drugs with the desire to market potentially lifesaving treatments as soon as possible. The article also examines whether patients with terminal conditions should have unlimited access to experimental drugs. Pretty fascinating—though labyrinthine—issues.

The Right to a Trial
FDA Proposes Report Cards
FDA Approval Process Explained

Flickr photo by confusedvision (cc)

January 24, 2007

2007 State of the Union (and Presidential Tag Cloud Revisited)

Just a reminder, for those of you who missed my previous rave about it, that Chirag Mehta has updated his Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud with an analysis of last night's State of the Union. "Terrorists" and "Iraq" remain the most frequently-used words, but my eye also catches on the increased frequency of "baghdad" and "qaeda" in comparison to previous SOTUs, and slightly lower relative frequency of "economy" and "freedom." Anybody notice any other interesting trends? Take it to the comments.

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Link: US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud
2007 SOTU Text: State of the Union Address, Jan. 23 2007


UPDATE: See also today's New York Times for The State of the Union in Words, another examination of word frequency in State of the Union speeches (but limited only to those given by Pres. Bush).

January 22, 2007

Helpful Hints for Clinton, Obama, Brownback, and McCain*

On Saturday, January 20, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) announced her intention to run for president in 2008, joining Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), Sam Brownback (R-KS), and a growing list of other contenders.

As their words, actions, and personal styles come fully into the media spotlight, we invite all of them to ponder the foibles of past presidents and presidential candidates. See below (and after the jump) for our bipartisan editors’ picks of the most embarrassing moments for U.S. presidents and presidential candidates in recent decades. And feel free to add your favorites in the comments!

Most Embarrassing Presidential (and Presidential Candidate) Moments
Of the Last 35 Years

10. Jimmy Carter loudly bungles the name of a former Democratic vice president and icon during a dramatic part of his acceptance speech for the presidential nomination at the 1980 Democratic National Convention: "And we're the party of a great leader of compassion—Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the party of a great man who should have been president, who would have been one of the greatest presidents in history—Hubert Horatio Hornblower—Humphrey." (Aug. 14, 1980)

Ford-Brezhnev.jpg9. In the second presidential campaign debate between incumbent Pres. Gerald Ford and his Democratic rival, Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, Ford makes a misstatement widely seen as ridiculous when he declares, " ... there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration." (Oct. 6, 1976)

8. Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D, MA) tries to defend himself against charges that by failing to vote in favor of funds for the Iraq War he was betraying American troops, but ends up fueling the perception that he has taken inconsistent positions on issues: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it." (Mar. 16, 2004)

7. Pres. Richard Nixon, while campaigning to mute his Watergate and credibility problems, defends his personal finances at a nationally televised Q&A session with a convention of Associated Press managing editors: "And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice ... people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I am not a crook. I have earned everything I have got." (Nov. 17, 1973)

6. During a microphone check, unaware that he is being recorded, Pres. Ronald Reagan jokes, "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." (Aug. 11, 1984)

Continue reading "Helpful Hints for Clinton, Obama, Brownback, and McCain*" »

January 11, 2007

Tag, You're It!

pres_tags.jpgThis link has made the rounds before, but in the wake of President Bush's speech about troop increases in Iraq (and with another State of the Union coming up on January 23) it seems like a good time to point out Chirag Mehta's brilliant and fascinating Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud.

Mehta has taken the text of some 360 presidential speeches—from a 1776 speech by John Adams on "The Foundation of Government" through Pres. Bush's most recent SOTU—and run them through a script that assigns different weights to words according to frequency and popularity. What you see on his site are the top 100 words in each speech; words that appear more frequently are larger in size, and words that are closer to their "peak usage" are whiter in color.

A few things to look for:

  • First appearances of words in the top 100; for example, "conservation" in 1909, or "terrorism" in 1980
  • Patterns of rapid growth in word frequency; for example, "unemployment" between 1930 and 1935, or "communist" between 1951 and 1953
  • The ebb and flow of perennial favorites, especially "constitution"
  • The gradual disappearance of archaic words. The word "pecuniary" was among the top 100 words in Washington's first inaugural address; how many times do you think it will pop up in the next State of the Union?

Links: Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud (chir.ag)
State of the Union Addresses (complete text, from ThisNation.com)

January 9, 2007

The First 100 Hours and How to Track Them

That’s Congressional time folks, so don’t expect rapid fire law passing. Those 100 hours only include time spent in session and exclude time spent debating. By that rate, they should be wrapping up just before Bush gives his State of the Union address on Jan. 23. 100hours.jpg

The House had originally planned to pass four laws successively this week but President Bush's planned speech on Iraq this Wednesday has shifted the Democrats' schedule for these bills. Those laws would enact recommendations from the 9/11 commission, raise the minimum wage to $7.25 over two years, pass a law supporting research of human stem cells like the one vetoed by Bush last year (his only veto), and lower Medicare prescription drug prices.

So what will happen to these laws? Interested citizens can use Govtrack.us to keep track of the legislation they’re interested in. Search for bills by number, keyword, subject, committee, etc… then be notified through a free account when there are any changes to them. You can also track by issue or monitor the voting habits of your elected representatives. To track those initial four laws, search for H.R. 1 through H.R. 4, or click below:

  • H.R. 1: Enacting 9/11 commission recommendations
  • H.R. 2: Raising minimum wage
  • H.R. 3: Human stem cell research
  • H.R. 4: Medicare prescription drug prices

January 4, 2007

Lady Speaker

Pelosi.jpg At noon today, a quorum was established in the House to establish the 110th Congress. Shortly thereafter (O.K., the quorum took 35 minutes), Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) nominated Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker amidst much cheering and applause. John Boehner (R-OH) was nominated minority leader. After an hour-long vote by manual roll call, John Boehner passed the gavel to Nancy Pelosi, newly elected as the first female House Speaker and the highest ranking elected female official in the nation’s history (she’s second in line to the presidency, behind the vice president).

Today's program is full of a lot of pomp and hobnobbing. Not much is accomplished. The "100 Hours" of legislation does not begin until Tuesday (look for a post on legislation then).

First up, Rush Holt (D-NJ) asked for Speaker Pelosi's support of Christine Jennings in her ongoing challenge of the election she lost to Vern Buchanan (R) in Florida's district 13, where 18,000 votes cast by electronic ballot registered no vote. Pelosi approved. Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (FL) disapproved. This is the only election result still actively contested; stay tuned.

They are currently adopting the new House Rules (full text; summary) that include several notable changes:

  • In response to the Jack Abramoff scandal, gifts and trips paid for by lobbyists are no longer allowed without prior approval.
  • House members will be allowed 24 hours to read legislation.
  • They can not be prevented from attending committee hearings.
  • They will have to list earmarks and benefits put into any bill and make them public.
  • The budget can not allow the federal deficit to increase over 5- or 10-year period.

January 3, 2007

Muslim, Buddhist House Representatives to Add to Congressional Diversity

When the 110th Congress convenes for the first time on Thursday, Jan. 4, a more religiously diverse Congress will be getting down to work in Washington.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) will be the first Muslim in Congress. (Ellison will also be the first African-American congressional member to come from Minnesota, though as one article noted, Ellison had said in an interview before the elections, “I haven't put the emphasis on my own personal identity.”) Raised Catholic, Ellison converted to Islam as a 19-year-old college student.

Reps. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Hank Johnson of (D-GA) will be the first Buddhists in Congress. Hirono was raised a Buddhist; Johnson converted about 30 years ago. Also worth noting is the fact that incoming Democratic majority leader Sen. Henry Reid (NV) will be the highest-ranked Mormon in congressional history.

Of all congressional members, roughly 29% identified themselves as Roman Catholic, the highest figure for any denomination. Only six members of Congress, all Democratic House representatives, did not cite a religious affiliation. A full list of the members of the 110th Congress and their religious affiliations, compiled by the group Americans for Religious Liberty, is available for download as a pdf.

December 14, 2006

Do You Have a Vision for Canada's Future?

Canadaflag.jpg
If you’re between the ages of 18 and 25 (and Canadian), then you only have until tomorrow to get in your videotaped interview to become “The Next Great Prime Minister” (of Canada).
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. will be airing the TV show on March 18, 2007 in which five finalists will be judged by four former Canadian prime ministers: Joe Clark (June 4, 1979-Mar. 2, 1980), Kim Campbell (June 25, 1993-Nov. 10, 1993), John Turner (June 30, 1984-Sept. 17, 1984), and Brian Mulroney (Sept. 17, 1984-June 24, 1993).

In its initial run earlier this year, political science student Deirdra McCracken was the winner.
(Website in English or French, bien sûr.)

December 12, 2006

Election Day. Redux.

Oath%20of%20Office%20detail.jpg And 35 days later, the final lineup for the 110th Congress is… well we’re almost there. The last runoff election is happening now. Current Congressman Henry Bonilla (R) and former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez (D) are competing for Texas’ 23rd district. After the Supreme Court ruled that the statewide redrawing in 2003 (remember Tom Delay versus the “Killer D’s” democrats?) diluted the growing Hispanic vote in the district, the Nov. 7 election became non-partisan. Eight candidates ran and Bonilla, the only Republican, fell 1.4% short of the required majority vote.
Rep. William J. Jefferson (D) won in Saturday’s race for Louisiana’s 2nd district, which includes New Orleans. Recent legislation ensured this is the last time that Louisiana’s federal elections will be decided by their unique nonpartisan open primary where a runoff is required if one candidate doesn’t secure a majority of the votes (there were 13 candidates on the Nov. 7 ballot for the 2nd district). Jefferson had failed to win a majority of the vote in the primary after the FBI found $90,000 stuffed in his freezer during an investigation into alleged bribes in May.
If you’ve already purchased a copy of the 2007 World Almanac, you can head here for updates to the Congress section.

Image detail from Library of Congress

December 5, 2006

Discovery's 33rd Launch

Photo from NASA.gov Last night at 11 p.m. (EST), NASA began the countdown towards the launch of the Discovery space shuttle, its 33rd mission (find information on earlier missions in the Almanac's Memorable Moments in Human Space Flight section p.314-317). Due to launch at 9:35 p.m. (EST) Thursday, the STS-116 mission will be delivering and installing new pieces of the International Space Station including the $11 million, 4,000-pound P5 integrated truss segment. They will also be dropping off flight engineer Sunita Williams to replace Thomas Reiter as the third member of ISS’ Expedition 14.
Included in Discovery’s seven person crew is Sweden’s first astronaut, Christer Fuglesang. (Välkommen till världsrymd Christer!)
Extra cool bonus fact: that flood of water unleashed seconds before a shuttle’s launch isn’t meant to keep things cool. The water actually breaks up acoustic waves so they don’t damage the shuttle.

NASA will be blogging the launch starting at 3:30 on Thursday.
Or watch the whole thing in streaming video here.
Crew photo from NASA.gov

November 30, 2006

The National Archives’ 100 Milestone Documents

It was during my days researching milestones for the Book of Records that I realized that primary sources began to make my heart go aflutter. Well, the National Archives’ 100 Milestone Documents website is just swoon inducing. It provides a scanned image, a transcript, and background notes for 100 history making American documents from 1776 to 1965 including every constitutional amendment, the Gettysburg Address, the Zimmermann Telegram, even the check that bought Alaska.
When the site launched back in 2003, the National Archives, National History Day, and U.S. News & World Report held a public vote to determine the ten most significant documents based on the percentage of voters who cited each doc in their top ten (List after the jump).

Continue reading "The National Archives’ 100 Milestone Documents" »

November 21, 2006

Does Thanksgiving Breach the First Amendment?

Our third and sixth Presidents thought so, according to this bit of Thanksgiving history from the Library of Congress:

The first President of the United States, George Washington, proclaimed November 26, 1789 to be a day of national thanksgiving and prayer after receiving Congressional requests for such a decree… Thanksgiving failed to become an annual tradition at this time. Only Presidents Washington, Adams, and Madison declared national days of thanks in their terms. Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams considered the practice to infringe upon the separation of church and state. Governors, on the other hand, particularly in the New England states, regularly issued proclamations of thanksgiving.
We've all heard the debates on whether posting the Ten Commandments or a nativity scene in a federal building defies the Constitution, but I’ve never personally heard anyone argue against Thanksgiving as a federal holiday. So I was surprised to learn that creating the American holiday of Thanksgiving wasn’t as easy as gorging on that second slice of pumpkin pie. It took the destruction caused by the Civil War for it to occur annually. Seriously. Read more or just view the timeline at the LOC’s Learning Page.
Or embarrass the youngins at the kids table by reading aloud Washington’s 1789 letter.

-Andrew Steinitz

About Government

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