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About this Blog

During the semester, I shall post course material and students will comment on it. Students are also free to comment on any aspect of American politics, either current or historical. There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges. This blog is on the open Internet, so post nothing that you would not want a potential employer to see.

The course syllabus is at:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Politics, Movies, and TV

In National Treasure (2004) Nicholas Cage explains this whole course 

Birth of a Nation (1915) -- the first movie to have a White House screening, sadly revealing Woodrow Wilson's writings and racial attitudes in the early 20th century (at 2:42:50).

Gabriel Over the White House (1933) -- also illustrates the Trump approach to civil liberties.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Mission to Moscow (1943) -- featuring Good Guy Stalin (at 45:00)

Duck and Cover (1951) -- civil defense documentary on saving yourself from the Bomb.

Fail-Safe (1964) -- after the Cuban Missile Crisis, a scary look at an accidental nuclear attack

Dr. Strangelove (1964) -- a satirical look at an accidental nuclear attack.

All the President's Men (1976) -- an iconic but made-up line.

The Distinguished Gentleman (1992) on money and politics

The Lion King (1994) --Compare Nuremberg rally  with "Be Prepared"

The Wire -- juking the stats on the police force and in school.

Mad Men

The Missing Low-Income Students

1.  If you have questions on the Constitution, please post them or raise them in class next week.

2.  This item, by Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed, bears directly on our discussion of the Murray book:
Since 2008, student aid from federal and institutional sources has increased. Political and foundation leaders have also focused on the importance of a postsecondary education, and the need to increase college attainment.
But in the years since 2008, the proportion of low-income recent high school graduates who enroll in college has seen a significant drop, according to a new analysis from the American Council on Education.
In 2008, 55.9 percent of such high school graduates enrolled in college. By 2013, that figure dropped to 45.5 percent. While overall enrollment rates increased just after the economic downturn hit in 2008, they have fallen for all income groups since. However the drop for those from low-income families has been the greatest.
College Enrollment Rates for Recent High School Graduates
High income81.9%78.5%
Middle income65.2%63.8%
Low income55.9%45.5%
The analysis is based on U.S. Census Bureau data. For the above comparisons, the ACE study defined low-income families as those from the bottom 20 percent, high income as from the top 20 percent, and everyone else in the middle group.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When can we start to trust the polls a bit more? Two weeks, according to this analysis.

According to this analysis by David Byler of RCP, early-state primary polls start to become more predictive approximately two weeks after Thanksgiving. The analysis used a simple linear regression technique and is based on data from the IA and NH polls from the 2008 Republican, 2008 Democratic, and 2012 Republican primaries.

The R-squared of the regression analysis, plotted here as "predictive power," begins to increase from 0.6 about two weeks after Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2015

National Uninsured Rate Falls to Lowest Level in US History

New data from a CDC Survey show the effects of the ACA (Obamacare) two years into the law's implementation. The survey shows a historically low US uninsured rate, 9%, and California's rate is even lower, at 8.6%. An article from "" attributes this to the state's embrace of the ACA. I have included their article below, which highlights more briefly the CDC's findings:

Coming Apart: A First Look

Prologue: November 21, 1963

Tocqueville (p. 458) on the 19th century:
In times of freedom and enlightened democracy there is nothing to  separate men from one another or to keep them in their place. They  rise or fall extraordinarily quickly. They are so close to each other  that men of different classes are continually meeting. Every day  they mix and exchange ideas, imitating and emulating one another. So the people get many ideas, conceptions, and desires which they never would have had if distinctions of rank had been fixed and society static.
Douglas Rae on early 20th century New Haven, rebutting the idea of strict residential separation:
New Haven in the Frank Rice era around 1910 was nothing of the sort. People at the bottom and the top of the workforce usually lived in town, close to their places of work, and therefore fairly close to one another. (p. 115)
Allowing for the vagaries of historical data, we can conclude with certainty that a majority of civic organizations were headed by regular folks for whom high office was not a routine expectation in life. (p. 166)
Michael D'Antonio on Trump's father:
In his prime, Fred Trump was among the richest men in America, yet he lived among doctors, lawyers, and accountants. He rarely traveled, except for vacations in Florida, and was careful about expenses. In 1955, when Fortune published a study on the subject, this far-from-ostentatious life was the norm for top executives across the nation, who remembered the the excesses of the Roaring Twenties and refused to repeat them. Don Mitchell, president of Sylvania Electric, lived in an eleven-room house in Summit, New Jersey, and commuted by train to Manhattan. D. A. Hulcy, president of Lone Star Gas, counted a small lakeside cottage as his main indulgence.

Census data on share of population with college and data by gender

The increasing economic importance of education

Education, inequality, and the college sorting machine

Ranking of colleges by economic diversity

Jonathan Wai writes at Quartz: 
The following data in the graph below are taken from another research paper which can be found here (pdf). I looked at the educational backgrounds of US Fortune 500 CEOs, federal judges, senators, House members, attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos (which included CEOs, journalists, academics, and people in government and policy), and the most powerful men and women according to Forbes. The blue bars indicate the elite school percentage (undergraduate or graduate school). The red bars indicate the graduate school percentage not included in the elite category. The green bars indicate those who graduated from college independent of the other two categories. And the NR/NC category indicates people who did not report or had no college.

elites and school
One might argue that the Fortune 500 CEO elite school percentage of roughly 38% is not very high. But this value should be taken in the broader context. Note the purple bars, which show that nearly everyone in the US elite graduated from college. This flatly contradicts the stories glamorizing college dropouts—such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg—who both were accepted by and attended Harvard. Next, it’s interesting to note that 44.8% of billionaires, 55.9% of powerful women, 63.7% of Davos attendees, and 85.2% of powerful men attended elite schools. Finally, 55.6% of the journalists who attended Davos went to elite schools. I conducted my own analysis of the data on The New Republic masthead, suggesting that roughly 64.2% attended elite schools. Data on the New York Times was not systematically available, but it is unlikely to be much different, and may even be more select given its reputation.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Coming Apart: Survey

This is an interesting quiz based on Coming Apart that assesses how thick your bubble is from mainstream American culture. It's a quick, thought-provoking survey.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Civil Liberties

Nixon-era views of civil liberties:

The Bill of Rights
  • Amendment I  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 
  • Amendment II A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
  • Amendment III No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. 
  • Amendment IV  The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  • Amendment V  No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. 
  • Amendment VI  In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
  • Amendment VII  In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
  • Amendment VIII Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
  • Amendment IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
  • Amendment X  The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

From Topkis's comments:
Now, this bill was of course drafted by a theologian, or somebody versed in apologetics.
There's an amusing bit of evidence on that subject in the very language of the bill.
The bill keeps using... the Act keeps using the term "evidences" in the plural.
We lawyers never speak of "evidences" in the plural.
We speak of "evidence", the singular.
And I got nagged by it, and I looked it up the other day.
And of course the only dictionary reference to "evidences" is to Christian apologetics: the evidences for Christianity.
This is a matter of theological disputation.