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Weekend selection

Monday, October 18, 2010

Here are my choices of the best articles for class discussion from the papers on Saturday and Sunday

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Accessible article on US midterms, with questions

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I came across this article in the Guardian this week. Lots of fodder for class discussion or as a homework exercise

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US Supreme Court 2010 style

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Here is a good article for introducing the court, with some questions for discussion.

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What’s up with Obama?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

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Students of US politics should be keeping a close eye on the Obama presidency as a case study on leadership stretch and the constitutional limits of the office.

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Friday afternoon lesson (in?)activity: more power to the mob?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

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We all know lessons Friday after lunch are a necessary evil. But if this doesn’t get discussion going for students of politics…?

This November, it is widely expected that Americans will go to the polls to deliver a quasi-referendum on Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House. Though in many ways voters will equally be delivering a general anti-government protest given that the GOP is slightly more unpopular than the Democrats. But also on the same day Californians will go to the polls to deliver a verdict on whether Marijuana should effectively be decriminalised.

This is an excellent case study which can be used to toss around the for and against points in respect of direct democracy:

Are voters sufficiently well informed?
Does it lead to the tyranny of the majority - or even the tyranny of the minority, if you don’t feel that Mill’s point had any validity (and some don’t)
Can finance skew the issue?
Can complex issues be reduced to simple binary options?

And if nothing else, what about a general discussion of the legality of cannabis use? Andrew Sullivan doesn’t think a vote in favour of Prop 19 would be the worst thing that west coasters have ever done.

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Tea Party round-up

Sunday, September 19, 2010

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The US media is in a frenzy at the moment over the meaning and potential long term impact of the Tea Party movement. The UK papers this weekend have reacted to this as well and this is a development well worth discussing in a review of the latest news from the US in lesson time this week.

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American inequality

Saturday, September 18, 2010

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What might students of politics make of the latest economic data from the USA which points to a widening gap between rich and poor?

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A more ideologically cohesive GOP?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

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What conclusions, if any, can we draw from the Tea Party surge within the Republican Party?

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Top venues for learning about US politics

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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If you are a student of American politics, then this post early in the academic year could well be my most important…

These are the sites I most frequently plunder when trying to keep abreast of developments in US politics. These are also the places therefore that I suggest students of the subject try to access as much as possible when trying to get to grips with the politics of the USA. In the same way as linguists recommend immersion learning when studying a new language, getting stuck into some of the US sites really does help.

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Commander in Chief 2012 doesn’t like teachers

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

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This video is strange on so many levels.
See the CNN report with subtitles (not really necessary given the depth and extent of the Palin vocab) here.
Helpful to see, though, the Sarah for Prez support team gesticulate as to how the US is bigger than Alaska. Well, I guess that’s progress.
Hail to the chief?

US politics: courts and civil rights

Friday, August 06, 2010

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It is rare that a court case at a lower level than the US Supreme Court hits the headlines in America, but in a landmark ruling the California district of the US federal courts overturned Proposition 8, an initiative which banned California’s gay marriage law.

It is uncertain whether the ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger will trigger any new marriages between same sex couples in the state, but it is likely that campaigners in favour of defending traditional marriage will appeal and that the case will wind its way to the US Supreme Court.

This is the first time that federal judges have ruled on a same sex marriage case, and the outcome only affects the state of California, not the many other states that have constitutional or legal bans on gay marriage. Gay rights activists feared defeat would set back their cause for a generation, and stakes remain high on both sides of the debate, as a final ruling by judges in Washington could fundamentally alter the social topography of the United States. In the more immediate term, the issue is something of a hot potato for the November elections, with politicians from both parties expected to take sides on this issue.

More detail on the story from the washingtonpost.com website here.

Not all it’s cracked up to be?

Friday, July 30, 2010

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Students tackling race relations on edexcel 3c frequently cite the asymmetric treatment afforded to blacks in the judicial-legal system as ongoing evidence of racism and/or racial inequality.

In particular, common reference is made to the much tougher punishment for possession/dealing crack as opposed to powdered cocaine. From a personal perspective it is a shame that often what’s missing from this discourse is the argument that black community leaders and politicians trigerred a ramping up of the crack laws since the drug was devastating housing project areas with a large concentration of black residents.

Anyway, I received this email update from the NAACP. This is a useful way of keeping up-to-date with race issues, since I often don’t come across them in a normal day’s reading of washingtonpost.com.

Read on…

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Federalism in action

Monday, July 26, 2010

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There are a couple of interesting social policy issues getting a lot of attention in the US at the moment, and they act as a useful way of introducing the concept of federal-state relations.

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Midterms 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

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There’s a great piece in this week’s Economist which looks ahead to the 2010 election.

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Palin - the first ever?

Monday, July 12, 2010

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When conducting research for my previous posting I came across this.  It seems that I can’t include three youtube clips in one posting, and it is a shame not to share this if you haven’t already seen it.

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Sarah Palin for 2012?

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Down the left hand side of this page, often newsmax ask you to vote on whether Sarah Palin would get your vote in 2012.  She is the theme of this posting.

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The worst campaign ad ever?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The demon sheep ad produced as part of the Republican Senate primary campaign in California is being widely hailed as a pythonesque absurd spoof, but is actually a sign of poor political taste…

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The Daily Show does Palin

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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I’m sure teachers of American Politics won’t need reminding about the virtues of watching the Daily Show, but students may need a gentle reminder.

The episode broadcast in the UK last night contained a hilarious analysis of Sarah Palin’s major speech at the Tea Party conference in Nashville.  Palin is a phenomenon and never quite manages to steer herself away from unintended controversy.  If you’re not sure what I’m on about watch a replay from the Channel 4 website.  Of course, Jon Stewart is presenting from a left wing perspective and I share many of his personal biases, so it may not be to everyone’s taste!!

Watch by clicking here.

Two halves of a bank note

Friday, February 05, 2010

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How successful has Obama been in delaing with Congress?

Listen to this audio clip from national public radio to find out!

Obama and the State of the Union

Monday, February 01, 2010
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Obama’s first State of the Union

Thursday, January 28, 2010

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I’ve just started the power of the presidency, and intend to use Obama’s address to Congress as part of delivery.  Here’s the link to the video

Still more Obama - and ideas for a webquest

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

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There’s a useful two page spread on Obama’s presidency one year on in today’s Independent—here is the link to the web version.

The BBC devotes a special section to the one year anniversary.

And see how you get on with the one year quiz!!!

I’m definitely going to use all the abundant material for students to do a webquest presentation on his first year.  A nice way to start Unit 4C having just completed the 3C exam.  Andy Lawrence has posted details of a similar exercise on Cameron the t2u Pol teachers forum.

More useful Obama article and video links

Monday, January 18, 2010

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More interesting stuff on Obama for teaching and learning.  A great article on Obama and race here.  Younge is a corking journalist who has written two very readable books on the US, which are suggested reading for students of America.  He has also made a documentary for the World Service entitled “Opposing Obama”, first airing scheduled for the 1st of Feb. List of times is here.

Andrew Sullivan casts a cool eye over Obama in an article on his first year.  Newsnight’s Gavin Esler, a man who spent a few years in the US for the BBC, should be worth watching on Wednesday.

Obama and me on BBC Two might not offer great academic insight, but may give you a slice of insight into modern America.

Obama links

Friday, January 15, 2010

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There’s a raft of material out there on Obama at the moment to coincide with the President’s first year in office.  This seems like the second anniversary in recent months since the media sought to celebrate his “first year” back in Nobvember when, of course, this marked 12 months since he was elected, not when he was sworn in.

See the Financial Times for an overview and analysis.

The Economist has a lengthy feature

For the next few days you can see the second part of Simon Schama’s BBC documentary on Obama.

Schama on Obama

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

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Another documentary heads up

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Divides in American party politics

Monday, January 11, 2010

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Two great articles for prompting discussion on intra and inter party rivalry in American politics.

First, Andrew Sullivan looks at the rabid right wing nativist nature of the Republicans here.  This suggests therefore that there are deep partisan divides in America at present.  But closer analysis of the parties also reveals divisions within the Democrats.  As far as some within the party are concerned, Obama’s first year has been a let down.  Read about how Obama has come under attack from the left here.

Greed is good?: Corporate lobbying and US society

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Useful US pressure groups example
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Questions about the corrosive effects of big business in the US has tended to focus on the political damage they cause.  But a new study by the IMF (of all groups!) strongly suggests that the sector of the financial industry that spends the biggest bucks on lobbying is also the most underpeforming and therefore is costing the American public.  Thus there is a strong argument to suggest that they are damaging to US society as well.

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Disadvantages of direct democracy

Monday, December 28, 2009

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There’s a great article in the xmas double issue of the Economist on the perils of direct democracy.  A useful source of arguments and examples for those covering the UK and US participation in politics modules.

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Political Donations by Your Favourite US Brands

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I wish there was something similar to this available for UK businesses.  Here is a fascinating interactive graphic which displays the political leanings of hundreds of leading US businesses and brands - based on their total political contributions.

The logic of communities segregated by race?

Monday, November 30, 2009

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I wonder if this clip by Tim Harford will provoke debate among students about race, whether in the UK or the USA.

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Glenn Beck: the renegade running the opposition to Obama

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Want to get a flavour of the degree of partisanship in modern American politics?

Say the Observer:

“Glenn Beck is a TV host, bestselling author and the most influential voice on the rightwing Fox channel. Now, even some Republicans worry that the extreme and maverick views of Beck and his supporters will make their party unelectable. Is the TV tail wagging the political dog?”

Read the rest of the article and listen to this classic five minute radio rant by the man himself.  It takes a little time to load up, but it is hilarious.  And just a little bit scary!

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Don’t mess with Texas?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

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For reasons that are possibly too mundane to go into I have just read the special report on Texas from a summer edition of the Economist.

It is absolutely fascinating as a means of gaining a deeper insight into a rapidly changing state, and is a treasure trove of Americana.  Did you know for instance that Texas is one of four states where whites are a minority, or that tequila was invented there?

I recommend:

Lone Star rising
The best and worst of Texas
The red and the blue
The new face of America

A Republican revival?

Once a week my students are expected to contribute something to our media sessions.  A useful way to break a double, to be sure, but these are designed to supplement learning.  I usually keep something up my sleave just in case discussion doesn’t flow—though thus far it has yet to be a problem.

Here was last week’s from the Independent’s Big Question series.

The geography of US jobs

Monday, November 09, 2009

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One of my colleagues at school sent me this link at the weekend which displays a fascinating graphic of job creation and loss in the USA over the last few years.  It gives the lie to the idea that there is such a thing as a national economy, even if there is a national picture.

It also serves to explain why despite a recent upsurge in gdp, many Americans are unhappy about the state of the economy—jobs are the pain that communities feel and make sense of.  Though a note of caution here since it only gives data to July 2009.

The link is here.

Media Monday Motown

Monday, November 02, 2009

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This week for our American Politics media sessions we have been looking at a quite fascinating article about industrial decline in the USA. This tells us a lot about where power lies in America and is a useful basis for considering the extent to which America does really live up to the ideals it proclaims to stand for.

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Who’s that guy?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

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Only the 33rd most powerful man in Washington DC who is not called Obama or Biden.

So says GQ magazine (of all places) in their much anticipated DC power 50.  Believe it or not this was one of the buzz topics in the American capital when I was over there recently.  Hardly surprising in the most power obsessed city on earth. To paraphrase Michael Heseltine who was commenting on the ranking order of seats in Cabinet, everyone says it doesn’t matter to them, but of course it does.  Terribly.

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Gun crime debate

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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It’s not so much the graphic and the info on the decline in support for gun control in America, it’s the readers’ comments that are worth looking at.  I particularly like the British v American stuff, as if that had anything to do with it: why does a comment on American society and politics by a non-native invite criticism of that person’s country?  Touchy!

Blank Palin

Saturday, October 03, 2009

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Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s (ghostwritten) autobiography is due for release next month, and has already shot to the top of the bestseller charts.

Say the Guardian:
“News of the autobiography’s release has already prompted a string of jokes by the late night talkshow hosts reminding the wider public about Palin’s shortcomings.

“Critics say that it starts out okay, it gets really exciting and then confusing, and then the last 100 pages are blank,” said comedian Jimmy Fallon.”

USA: who runs government?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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I’ve been like a child with a new toy today, spending hours browsing on the Washington Post’s “Who runs gov?” pages.

The site contains up to date and interesting to read profiles of the people pulling the strings of American government.  A great resource for students and teachers of American Politics.

I’ve come up with a list of 10 of the most influential politicians in the USA, some of which you will have heard of and some you won’t.

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Pick of the papers

Sunday, September 20, 2009

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On the UK front the papers seem to be dominated by analysis of the party political debate on tax and spending.  For instance the Observer carries a front page story suggesting that the Tory attacks on Labour spending plans may backfire.

Here a Sunday Times editorial welcomes the development of a more open debate on the issue.

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When it comes to American politics, coverage of the debate about Obama and racism dominates with acres of newsprint given over to this story.

Here Paul Harris reports from South Carolina, a state at the heart of the race row.

Keith Richburg, in an editorial piece, argues that Obama’s election victory is not proof of a post racial America.

Andrew Sullivan takes an in depth look at the race debate and outlines its significance for the Republicans.

Is opposition to Obama racist?

Friday, September 18, 2009

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Former President (1977-1981) Jimmy Carter is the most senior Democrat to comment publicly that the venomous nature of the opposition to Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms can only be explained by racist undertones.

Racism continues to be the most divisive social problem in the United States, an issue that is never far beneath the surface when African Americans are the subject of political discourse.  This is partly explained by the legacy of slavery and segregation - both of which were outlawed much later in the USA than other comparable democracies.  You may recall, for instance, Muhammed Ali’s visit to the UK recently when the TV news channels broadcasted mini biographies of the boxer’s life, including Ali discussing how he was refised service at a lunch counter despite having won his country the gold medal in heavyweight boxing at the previous Olympics.  This was, of course, as recently as the 1960s.

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Obama health care speech reaction

Thursday, September 10, 2009

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An energised and passionate President Obama delivered his speech to a joint session of Congress.  Will it be enough?

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The President needs Congress

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

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The significance of the separation of powers is to be highlighted in perfect Technicolor later today when President Obama appears before a joint session of Congress to make a speech that he hopes will save his healthcare reform proposals (well, promises since he hasn’t actually been very specific about what he wants).

Most people expect Obama to be happy with some sort of healthcare package passing, even if it doesn’t include a government backed plan to insure Americans currently without coverage.

Bronwen Maddox in the Times takes up the story:

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Obama’s Waterloo?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

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This year is a great one to be studying American politics (ditto on this side of the Atlantic given that we have a general election on the horizon that looks odds on to deliver a change in government), as we watch Obama try to transfer the electricity and excitement he generated during his election campaign into doemstic polciy success.  Now that the congressional recess is over after the summer, Obama must seek to win approval from sufficient numbers of the House and Senate to bring insurance coverage to over 40 million American citizens currently without it.

There’s a very good piece here outlining the challange Obama faces in trying to reconcile differences between Democrats and Republicans.  As the adviser to his predecessor as President points out, failure on healthcare reform could be Obama’s Waterloo.  This is why Obama is placing all his cards on the table by making a speech to Congress on Wednesday.  Watch out for that!!

After Ted: more Kennedys for Massachusetts?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

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The Big Question runs a feature on the rather complex dynamics of choosing a replacement for his vacant Senate seat, which has been controlled by his family for over 50 years.

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Obama and racism

Monday, August 17, 2009

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Do you think that the Obama presidency means that race is no longer a problem in America?

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Media Monday in absentia

Saturday, August 01, 2009

There are obviously no lessons at the minute since we are bang in the middle of the summer break, but I thought I’d draw your attention to a piece that would be surefire favourite for the Media Monday sessions.  It is packed full of detail and analysis on the factors that determine the success of a presidency.  I intend to put it to one side until it comes to teaching this topic later in the year.

Keeping up with Obama

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I’m posting a couple of details for those who are looking to keep up tp date with the Obama presidency.

There’s a good feature on Obama’s diplomatic efforts in the Middle East in the Guardian.

But Lexington argues that Obama is only likely to disappoint his supporters.

Obama and the race row

Saturday, July 25, 2009

That race relations continues to be America’s most intractable social problem was brought to the surface again this week.

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Less advice and consent?

Sometimes when assesing the US Constitution we should be careful that we are addressing the contents of the document and not actions by politicians who claim to be acting out their constitutional role.  One such example is the process by which federal judges are confirmed.

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Obama effect?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Politics in the US continus to be dominated by health care and the Sotomayor nomination.  But I came across this little cut and keep nugget on voter turnout.

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Can Obama meet the health care challenge?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I know there seems to be a lot of emphasis on the blog at the moment on the Obama Presidency, but a new White House incumbent gives us the chance to analyse the intricate workings of politics inside the beltway.

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Obama health check

Monday, July 20, 2009

President Obama’s campaign pledge to widen health coverage to as many of the non insured as possible is stumbling amid partisan wrangling

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Whither support for war on terror?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

There’s a fine piece of writing by Tim Garton Ash in Thursday’s Guardian on how the war on the faltering economy has put thoughts about the so called war on terror to the back of many peoples’ minds.

“The first thing I see every time I come to New York is something that is not there. That soaring absence of the twin towers on the skyline of Manhattan remains this city’s most haunting presence. A landmark of air. But the shadow cast by the absent twin towers is no longer the defining feature of world politics in the way that the shadow cast by the Berlin Wall was for nearly 30 years. Most people don’t any more feel that we live in a “war on terror” in the way that we did feel that we lived in a cold war. Not across the world. Not in America. Not even in New York.”

Sotomayor and being sleepless in Seattle

A combination of reverse jetlag and too many visits to Seattle’s many and varied coffeehouses has resulted in being glued to the late night news shows.  The consensus amongst the talking heads, even those on Fox’s far right broadcasts, is that the hearings for Sonia Sotomayor have been a straightforward proces, lacking any real controversy.

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Obama lacking leadership?

So claims one of the leading commentators on US politics in a recent column in Time Magazine.

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Obama and Africa

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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As if Barack Obama didn’t have enough on his plate as American President, he has taken time to forge a new direction in US foreign policy on Africa. Last week he made a bold speech where he argued that the continent could no longer apportion the blame on the effects of colonialism.

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Checking out?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What do a couple of the most powerful men in the world get up to at international summits?

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Who’s Roe in Roe v Wade?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

There’s a great feature on the woman who was at the centre in one of the most famous and controversial Supreme Court judgments in American history.  Quite how did this woman switch from being the poster girl of the pro-choice movement to fulfilling the same role for the anti-abortionists?  Those readers possessing the vaguest familiarity with American politics and society will not be shocked when they discover the answer.

Read the article here.

Obama and Russia

Monday, July 06, 2009

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As if the 44th President didn’t have enough on his plate, he is expected to reset the relationship between the USA and Russia.  Rupert Cornwell brings you up to speed.

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Palin’s greatest hits

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Why some people were concerned back in the autumn that this individual would be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

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Palin for President?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

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Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate dropped a bizarre bombshell on the eve of Independence Day by announcing that she was stepping down as Alaksa’s governor.

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Can America get out of its economic crisis?

Friday, July 03, 2009

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A twin set of stories from today’s Independent on America’s economic troubles.

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Obama and the magic of 60

This week we have been discussing the implications of the news that Al Franken will become the 60th Senator to vote with the Democrats.

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US foreign policy milestone

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

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Today marks one of the most significant points in recent US history, and an event that has largely been overlooked due to the current economic crisis.

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US politics: pick of the UK papers

Monday, June 29, 2009

There were a number of great features on Obama’s successes and failures in yesterday’s paper.  Here are details.

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“Gay exorcism” in the USA

Thursday, June 25, 2009

For fans of the classic comedy series “The Day Today”, you may think that this is the work of another set of comedians of a similarly twisted disposition.

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Opposition is no laughing matter.  Or is it?

I have been holed up in various less than salubrious locations in London this week on examining duties, but light relief has been provided by a number of stories emanating from across the Atlantic.

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Book for the beach

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

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I picked up a copy of Justin Webb’s “Have a Nice Day” at the weekend, which lays out a forceful and intense case for what can be considered positives about the modern USA.

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Change to come in America?

Friday, June 19, 2009

I have come across a useful page on the BBC containing a series of short videos on the challenges facing Obama as President.

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US revision: comparing civil liberties

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Anyone looking at synoptic questions about the ability of the UK and US political systems to uphold civil liberties may wish to consider this story.

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US revision: Obama’s health care reform

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In an echo of the MPs’ expenses scandal I have been swamped with requests by students about how reports about Obama’s health care plans can be rolled into US politics exam answers.
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Useful Obama links

I’ve put together a list of resources on President Obama.  This could be accessed by students or teachers for a host of purposes.

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American starter: US quick quiz

Friday, June 12, 2009

A few quick questions to work on for students starting a US Politics course

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25 years behind bars for stealing a pizza?

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This week our students have been given a general introduction to its people and politics.  During discussion I mentioned the use of three strikes laws in some US states.  As chance would have it there is a feature on this in this week’s Economist.

Useful for discussion of the use of direct democracy, how laws vary by state due to the federal structure, what such tough law and order measures might say about where we could place American parties on the political spectrum compared to UK parties.

The article is here.

American politics: summer reading

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

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Book review: an entertaining insight into life in America’s heartland

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US revision: Obama and federalism

Monday, June 08, 2009

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What is the new White House incumbent’s position on states’ rights?

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US revision: American Cabinet

Thursday, June 04, 2009

One of the modern features of American cabinets is its role in reaching out to the people and representing the diversity evident in the USA.  Here are some notes on Obama’s.

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Post AS: A2 American delivery

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Here are details of an idea about getting something interesting and productive done once students come back after the AS exams.  If you are one of the lucky institutions that doesn’t welcome back students after AS exams are over, then this could work equally well as a bit of summer homework.

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US Politics update: Supreme Court nominations

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How helpful of Barack Obama to nominate his first Supreme Court appointee and thereby dominating the US political news agenda at a time when so many students on this of the Atlantic are likely to be revising the topic for their exams.

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American Politics revision: separation of powers

Friday, May 22, 2009

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Barack Obama’s worst defeat so far as President is a perfect illustration of the separation of powers and checks and balances in action.

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What about ‘W’?

Friday, April 17, 2009

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What is the ex-Prez up to these days?

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Obama and Cuba

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The possibility of the USA formally softening its stance with the Caribbean island raises some interesting questions in terms of international relations.

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More on guns

Self defence, anyone?
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If your eyes glaze over when reading more about the intricate detail of Westminster sleaze, read this instead.  You don’t have to be a US Politics student to find America’s relationship with the gun fascinating.

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Paris, parties and partisanship

Sunday, April 12, 2009

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Many students write that American parties are catch-all or umbrella organisations

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US elections revision

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

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I’ve come across this useful primer from the New York Times on the race for the presidency

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Reality strikes for Obama?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

There is great briefing in this week’s Economist on the new President

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The West Wing way in

Monday, March 30, 2009

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How one of this blogger’s favourite TV shows may help with revision

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Obama: first and last

Saturday, March 21, 2009

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President Obama’s appearance on the Jay Leno show did not quite turn out as he hoped.

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Obamawatch continues

Thursday, March 19, 2009

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The US President’s powers are notoriously limited in the legislative sphere, so how does he get Congress to do his bidding?

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Larry Sabato

Thursday, March 05, 2009
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I attended an absolutely excellent lecture last night by Larry Sabato, Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia.

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Party renewal in the USA

Sunday, February 15, 2009
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Students quite frequently write that American parties are loose groupings and largely free of coherent ideology.  But this analysis ignores the steep rise in partisanship evident in the USA in recent decades.

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Obama the politician?

Friday, February 13, 2009
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I wrote in a previous article that an American politician once said that campaigns were in poetry and government was in prose.  This is a theme picked up in the Guardian:

‘You campaign in poetry, but you must govern in prose. That favoured phrase of New York’s former governor Mario Cuomo now applies with even more force to another progressive Democrat. Soaring rhetoric and a moving memoir combined to create the Barack Obama phenomenon and lift him from obscurity to the heights of the White House. Once installed, however, his main concern has been gritty negotiations over the minutiae of an economic recovery package. After protracted haggling, Congress has all but signed off on his fiscal stimulus plan, and yet the prosaic work remains far from complete.’

Read more of this neat editorial piece on the expectations gap here

First past the post

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

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The new edition of first past the post, tutor2u’s digital Politics magazine, has been posted on the site. 

Given the importance of the recent American elections, there is a bit of a US slant, but there are great articles covering UK politics, the EU, UK issues, as well as political ideologies.

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Dealing with the Senate

Monday, February 02, 2009

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This is a great time for American Politics students to be studying anything from the governing part of the course involving the separation of powers, checks and balances, the Presidency or Congress.

The United States is facing its biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression and the American electorate expect one man to put it right: President Obama.

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An early own goal for Obama

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An article provoking a lot of comment on the Guardian’s comment is free site is a feature by Gary Younge on President Obama’s attempt to woo congressional Republicans on the fiscal stimulus package.

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What now for the GOP?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

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I have penned an article for the forthcoming of first past the post, tutor2u’s digital Politics magazine, on the future of the Republican Party.  There has been, as is often the case when parties lose elections, some navel gazing going on at the heart of the GOP.  Essentially the party seems torn between deciding that it has been too conservative, while others believe it is not conservative enough.

In the short term the party seems determined to focus resolutely on tax cuts and government spending.  In my article I write that this alone will not be enough to restore the party’s credibility.  Anyway, an article by Paul Harris in today’s Observer picks up on some of the latest developments in the world of the GOP.

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Electing the president

Thursday, January 15, 2009

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One might be inclined to think that after one of the most exciting elections in living memory, which ended with an historic outcome, that electoral reform campaigners in the USA would have lost heart.

Not so.  Check out the Presidential Elections Reform Program of the FairVote website, which carries a host of useful stuff on reform of the primaries and the electoral college—the latter is particularly helpful if you are trying to dress up what can be quite a dry topic.

US presure groups: revolving door

Monday, January 12, 2009

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I have been doing some legwork for a forthcoming article for first past the post on campaign finance in the USA. Browsing the Open Secrets site I have been fascinated by their feature on the revolving door.

As the site states:

"Although the influence powerhouses that line Washington's K Street are just a few miles from the U.S. Capitol building, the most direct path between the two doesn't necessarily involve public transportation. Instead, it's through a door—a revolving door that shuffles former federal employees into jobs as lobbyists, consultants and strategists just as the door pulls former hired guns into government careers. While members of the executive branch, Congress and senior congressional staffers spin in and out of the private and public sectors, so too does privilege, power, access and, of course, money."

On the site you can track movement between congressional and executive offices and lobbying firms.  The scale and degree of activity is quite staggering. 

This is an excellent site for consolidating knowledge on this much discussed, but often misunderstood phenomenon.  Note for instance, that lobby firms seek to attract those with agency/executive experience as well as congressional staffers, not just ex-congressmen.>

“They misunderestimated me.”

Thursday, January 08, 2009

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Continuing the Bush focus (we will really miss him when he’s gone, and it will be difficult to believe he really was president for 8 years), here is a link to a BBC feature on Bushisms, those verbal dyslexia moments when 43 was unable to say what he meant.

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There is a special section on Bush in the G2 section of today’s Grauniad.  This is the web edition link.  The print edition has a cut and keep Bush mask.  Scary

Bush in pictures

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

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Teachers
If you happen to be looking for suitable pictures to pepper your school’s intranet page with, or, say, want to add a bit of humour to a class handout, then try the Ind’y selection of George W Bush images.  This link takes you to one of my favourite moments of the Bush presidency; the so called Pretzel incident.

Student’s caveat emptor
It’s fair to say that the British, and Europeans in general, can be somewhat smug when viewing goings on in the USA.  On the one hand we want them to do the right thing: scrap the death penalty, tighten gun laws, etc.  But on the other hand we like to sneer at their ability to get it wrong: proving what a barbaric and mixed up place it is.  This is partly since it makes us feel superior.  But it’s also because Americans seem overly proud of their country and their political system - viewing it as an extension of the democratic process that began with the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, habeas corpus, and the War of Independence, yet seeming to ignore that a raft of other countries in the world have made significant political advances since the birth of their nation.  This explains how we can be simultaneously proud that they have elected Obama, but can also be incredulous that they elected Bush - not just once, but twice.

Anyway, reservations aired.  They are funny pictures of a man that remains, to me at least, something of an enigma.

Evaluating the Bush presidency

Monday, January 05, 2009

Further to an earlier posting by a fellow blogger about Bush’s legacy, I would draw your attention to a rather good article from US News.

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It starts by noting how introspective the 43rd president has become in the fag end days of his time in office:

‘He finally admits that his low standing in the polls does bother him. “Everybody wants to be liked,” the normally thick-skinned president told a December 1 forum on global health. He concedes that many voters backed Democrat Barack Obama on Election Day as a protest against the Bush years. He admits to frustration with his big setbacks, especially the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which was one of his main reasons for going to war there. Similarly, he is disappointed by the failure of Congress to pass his measures to overhaul immigration and Social Security, and he is distressed by the soaring level of federal spending and the continuing partisan warfare in Washington.’

Read further here and consider the following exercises:

Outline what Bush himself is said to be proud of.
What does the article view as Bush’s positive legacies.
Summarise comment on each of the following headings:
The ‘war on terror’
The war in Iraq
The financial meltdown
Botching Katrina
The elevation of Dick Cheney

First past the post looks at the 2008 election

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The new edition of first past the post, tutor2u’s digital magazine, has just been posted on the website.

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There a number of excellent articles in it on a host of topical areas: the UK police force, multiculturalism, the US Supreme Court, the impact of Boris Johnson as London Mayor, a comparative analysis of the representativeness of the UK and US legislatures, the effect of the economic downturn on UK political parties, and look at the ‘what ifs’ of the US election.

I have also written one looking at the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.  This topic will inevitably crop up on the American papers of whatever syllabus you are following in the upcoming months.

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Where now for the Republicans?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

There was an excellent documentary at the weekend on the possibly declining influence of the religious right.  You can access for the next 29 days on Channel 4’s catch up site

I can’t find any way to download it permanently, so if there are any technophiles out there who know how…!

I have also included the first part here from YouTube

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Bushisms: why we’ll miss W when he’s gone

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In response to a string of misdemeanours by students in the fag end of this term, I have been quoting the current incumbent of the White House.  It is likely that during this speech, Bush attempted to say “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me”.  This is what he actually came out with (lol as facebookers are inclined to write)...image

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Great introductory article on the Chief of Staff

Saturday, November 08, 2008

It is unlikely that news that Rahm Emanuel has been chosen as Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff has escaped the attention of blog readers.

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Schott’s presidential almanac

How many presidents were over 6ft tall?  Which have had their faces on bank notes?

Find out via this jpg file, which would make a handy wall display:

Schott

‘Free’ poster

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A quick heads up for students and teachers.  This weekend watch out for a US elections 2008 poster in the Independent on Sunday.  If recent graphics in the sister paper are anything to go by, the elections outcome map may contain a few statistical errors, but at least they are promising a picture portrait of the president elect on the other side.

“One triumphant example won’t solve the chronic failure of blacks”

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

So says Matthew Syed in The Times. 

With wall to wall coverage of the election results possibly weighing us all down, I thought I’d point out this excellent article on race and ethnic politics in the USA – it’s gone straight into my folder of teaching notes for the topic.

Get it here

Black and blue

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

In an intelligent article, Gideon Rachman in the FT points out that Barack Obama will not only be the first ever black President if elected today, he will also be the first Democrat elected to the White House on nearly half a century that does not hail from a southern state.

He writes:

“We are on the brink of history. On Tuesday the US could elect its first ever blue president.

The fact that Barack Obama would also be the first black president has obscured the significance of his political colouring. If he wins, he will be the first northern, urban liberal to win the presidency since the culture wars broke out in the US in the 1960s.”

See the rest of the article here

Independent resources

The Independent today contains a feast of politics for students and teachers.

First off is their Great American Quiz  The same links takes you to the answers.  Teachers should be able to plunder this for many end of terms to come!

Some entertaining presidential trivia here

Why The Economist came out for Obama

Away from the US elections, here’s a good feature for UK issues coverage on the allegedly increasingly fluid nature of social mobility in the UK in the Big Question

Are you staying up for Obama?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

If you are planning on staying up till the wee hours on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning here is a guide to what to expect.

For what it’s worth, I suspect it will be a lot closer than many polls are predicting and that we won’t be confident of the final result until sunrise on Wednesday.

See the guide from The Times here

US elections programming: heads up

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Saturday More 4 at 7.05pm The story of Barack Obama and John McCain

As America prepares to go to the polls this Tuesday in what many consider to one of the most historical presidential elections in decades, Jon Snow narrates The Choice , a one-off documentary special which presents the story of Barack Obama and John McCain, and asks what do these two very unlikely presidential contenders say about the state of America at this crux moment in time?

Then at 11:20 pm on the same channel, Dispatches: Jon Snow’s American Journey

As Obama and McCain’s gladiatorial showdown enters its final week, Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow goes in search of the new America. Starting at the border with Mexico, Snow takes a road trip up the Pacific highway linking San Diego to Seattle, travelling though areas of great affluence, deprivation, innovation and tradition to find out about the new Americans, new economy and new directions that are shaping the next America.

On Channel 4 at 9.05 pm: Recount

Austin Powers director Jay Roach investigates the Florida voting scandal of 2000. Made-for-TV drama starring Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary, Laura Dern and Tom Wilkinson

US elections: the electoral college

Thursday, October 30, 2008

As I write this it is 4 days and 17 hours until polling opens.  This is just enough time for readers new to American Politics to get their head round the way US voters elect their President.

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WEEKEND U.S ELECTION ROUNDUP

Sunday, October 19, 2008

With 16 days until Election Day: A selection of campaign related news items from the week that wouldn’t necessarily warrant a post of their own but may still be of interest to political observers.

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The TV debates

Friday, October 17, 2008

A quick discussion about the presidential debates this morning revealed that students (a hat tip to Ben Winders here) thought that McCain seemed to spend more time attacking Obama rather than saying what he would do himself.  Now it turns out that “Joe the plumber” doesn’t even exist

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Colin Powell dancing to hip hop speculation

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The former Secretary of State danced with Olu Maintain, a Nigerian hip hop outfit and the news has been picked up by Fox News in the US that this signifies his intention to endorse Obama

The Young Turks show tackle this surreal notion

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Obama in the money

Monday, October 13, 2008

Whilst news of financial crisis intensifies, it appears that Barack Obama is bucking the trend and continues to smash fundraising records.  Here the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reports

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Panorama: US elections

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A heads up on the Panorama programme covering the American presidential election on BBC1, Monday 13th October at 8.30pm.  From the BBC website:

‘Our reporter travels to two very different Americas - Obama’s political home in South Chicago, and the crucial battleground state of Ohio - to see how the different versions of America offered by the Obama-Biden team and the McCain-Palin team are playing out.

He examines the astonishing trajectory of Mr Obama’s political career, which has seen him go from his first public office to presidential candidate in just 12 years.

And he tries to find out who the real Barack Obama is:

Is he, as some in the programme say, a neophyte, with nothing on his CV which qualifies him for the role as president?

Is he a scheming careerist, whose choices of friends, mentors and even which church to attend all come down to climbing the political ladder?

Or is he the real deal and America’s best hope in a troubled time?

The programme also examines the way in which Mr Obama and his supporters have broken the political mould, recruiting new voters from parts of the electorate previously thought unreachable and smashing all fund-raising records.’

US elections: classic campaign ads

Friday, October 10, 2008

The current US presidential campaign is getting nastier by the minute, largely as a result of John McCain’s desperation.  He has been reported as being behind by double digits nationwide and also lagging in some key states.  His camp have flirted with linking Barack Obama to a radical soialist who committed bombings in the 1970s but haven’t made much of it.  This reminded me of the 1988 campaign when George Bush Sr launched an attack ad on his Democrat opponent, Michael Dukakis. 

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Down and dirty in Tennessee: the end of evolution?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

According to a top geneticist, Steve Jones at UCL, evolution is nearly over or has even stopped.  But over in the US, it appears that the candidates have actually regressed as the campaign has turned ugly

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Race for the White House: changing electoral landscape

Sunday, October 05, 2008

I have written an article for first past the post on the factors which may determine the outcome of the presidential election, and it should be out shortly.  Meanwhile I would draw your attention to details of an article which popped up in my email inbox this morning from the New York Times.  It covers news that the economy has had a huge impact on the contest.  It starts:

“The turmoil on Wall Street and the weakening economy are changing the contours of the presidential campaign map, giving new force to Senator Barack Obama’s ambitious strategy to make incursions into Republican territory, while leading Senator John McCain to scale back his efforts to capture Democratic states.”

The article also contains some great links to multimedia maps: a useful teaching resource if you are covering voting behaviour.

Read the rest here

Economist special report on the US elections

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Economist has published a 21 page analysis of the forthcoming ballot on the presidency.  Economist.com users can download a copy of the pdf from their website.  Print subscribers, of course, can look forward to receiving their copy soon.

The pdf link is here

Why did the bailout collapse?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Here is a great article on the fine detail of events in Congress this week, and is an excellent insight into who the main players are.

From the Washington Post here

Presidential debates: round one

Monday, September 29, 2008

What the papers said about the first contest between McCain and Obama

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Friday Focus

Friday, September 26, 2008

Links to a couple of Economist articles with some accompanying questions.  I used these today for my American Politics classes.  A useful exercise for understanding the US election

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The age card

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

With the first presidential debates nearly upon us, I wonder if any of the candidates will play the right card.  Watch this YouTube clip

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Tweedledum or Tweedledumber

Monday, September 22, 2008

Already a clear favourite has emerged for my Friday Focus US Politics lesson.  Andrew Sullivan is amongst my favourite commentators and he is on scintillating form in this week’s Sunday Times

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US elections: crisis, what crisis?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

As Obama’s campaign went negative this week, the McCain camp continued to dominate the news cycle with a quick response to the news about economic meltdown

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Quality, not quantity

Monday, September 15, 2008

Students, as we all know, are busy people.  Here, this posting brings you a couple of the best articles in the UK press in recent days

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US politics documentary heads up

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday 9.00 pm BBC4 is showing ‘How to Be a Good President: Time Shift’.  The blurb from their website states:

‘In a whistle-stop tour through the history of the US presidency, journalist and author Jonathan Freedland asks what qualities make a great president and what we can learn from the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, JFK or even Richard Nixon about what it takes to make a mark in the White House.

Freedland is helped by distinguished contributors including James Naughtie, Shirley Williams, Douglas Hurd, Simon Hoggart and Bonnie Greer, who give frank assessments of some of America’s greatest presidents.’

A hat tip to Jack Barnes on this one.

A clip from the BBC of Nixon campaigning in 1972

Joe Sixpack

Saturday, September 13, 2008

In an election as close as this, character could prove decisive

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Focus on Friday - integrating wider reading into class

Sunday, September 07, 2008

In a previous posting I have written about how important it is for students to develop habits that will pay long term dividends in terms of extending their knowledge and understanding of British politics.  I have double periods scheduled with my Upper Sixths every Friday and they offer the ideal opportunity to include sessions similar to the ‘Media Monday’ ones I do with my Lower Sixth groups - ideally with a bit of YouTube thrown in

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Sarah Palin: hindrance or help?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Two expert columnists in the Washington Post take differing views on McCain’s choice of running mate

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McCain’s problem with Bush

With the Republicans convening in the twin cities this week, I thought the blog should focus on what the experts say about the GOP’s chances this November

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It’s the economy (again), stupid

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sixteen years after Bill Clinton’s chief election strategist, James Carville (nicknamed the ‘Ragin Cajun’), coined the phrase that defined the 1992 election, the 2008 contest promises to be dominated by debate about which candidate can most positively impact on voters’ pockets

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Comment on the Obama nomination

Saturday, August 30, 2008

With wall to wall coverage of the party conventions, the Politics blog may not need to bring you news of the latest on the US elections.

In case you missed it, John McCain chose Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin as his running mate.  See the New York Times report here.

And Barack Obama’s acceptance speech appears to have gone down well.

But I thought I’d bring your attention to some quality on the significance of the Obama nomination, each penned by historians.

Simon Schama writes in today’s Guardian, and Tristram Hunt comments in the Times.

 

 

US elections 2008: Economist keeps swinging

Friday, August 29, 2008

The latest state to be featured in the series running in The Economist on swing states 2008 is Missouri.  Partly for my future reference, I have created hyperlinks to all printer friendly editions of articles on states covered so far on my subject site on the school intranet.  I thought it might also be useful to post them here.  I find them fascinating since they provide so much rich detail not simply on the politics of the states but also the economy, culture, demography, and – sometimes – the religious characteristics of each state.

Ohio
Colorado
North Carolina
New Mexico and Nevada
Missouri

Obama’s problem

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why the Democratic nominee is struggling in the polls

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Running mate heading your way

Friday, August 22, 2008

By the time you read this you may already know who Barack Obama has chosen as his running mate - particularly if you are one of the many of his supporters to have received the news by text.  I don’t know why I have bought into the feverish speculation, since VPs don’t win elections.  Perhaps I should get a life.  Anyway, the hot money is still on Tim Kaine, but I have nailed my colours to the mast by backing Kathleen Sebelius.  Time will tell.

Matt Frei in America

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The BBC’s Washington correspondent has, he says, just returned from his extended summer break.  Coincidentally I have just finished reading his book Only in America.  In his online diary he turns his attention to the importance of that A level American Politics staple, the vice presidency.
This post considers Frei’s book and highlights his take on the veep’s office

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Veepweek madness

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A reporter for the Washington Post hit the nail on the head when they said that speculation about who the presidential running mates were going to be had reached the point of insanity.  Across the pond there is even fierce speculation about when the running mates will be announced

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US elections update: religion

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This week the two main contenders for the White House met for the first time as they both sought to appeal to the religious right

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US elections: swift boat to swift kids?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Whilst the US election gets more base by the minute, it’s unlikely to have reached its nadir.  A raft of anti-Obama books have been released recently, with echoes of the anti-Kerry moves in 2004.  But perhaps McCain was right when he said that you need to retain a sense of humour.  Obama better watch out that he isn’t swift kidded

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Hablas espanol?: the changing face of America

Friday, August 15, 2008

A new US Census Bureau report predicts that whites will be an ethnic minority by 2042.  This shift will undoubtedly have important political implications

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US election: ad war intensifies

The Economist this week features an article on the increasing importance of electronic media in election campaigns.

The latest in the White House air wars comes from Barack Obama

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Pick of the papers

Sunday, August 10, 2008

If you want to partake in something more satisfying than staring at pictures of the early rounds of the Olympics tiddlywinks, then you could browse through any of multiple Barack Obama articles in today’s papers

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US election: fancy a beer?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

If you have not been looking at the developments in the race for the White House in microscopic detail over the summer break, today’s Guardian news section contains a useful overview of the post primary campaign.  And there’s a bit of analysis from me in this post as well

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US elections focus

Friday, August 08, 2008

As I’ve said before on this blog, it is almost inevitable that all US A2 exams will carry a question or two on the 2008 race for the presidency, and for this reason alone students should keep abreast of the latest developments stateside.

But the race for the White House can also be fun to follow purely for the intrinsic benefits of learning more about the motivations of American voters.  Here I draw your attention to a twin set of articles in this week’s Economist

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Thin and nasty

Sunday, August 03, 2008

An aspect of the science of psephology I have hitherto been unfamiliar with is the salience attached to the body mass index of candidates.  But according to a report in today’s paper, Barack Obama might be too fit to appeal to an obese nation

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