Reviews and Blog Posts: Our Democracy Un-Spun

Our Democracy Un-Spun! #10 Get out there and VOTE!

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In the 1948 election, Thomas E. Dewey was projected to trounce President Harry S. Truman by a wide margin. Dewey was then the Governor of New York, and was considered stiff and pompous, "...the only man who could strut sitting down," some said. None the less, the polls were predicting a landslide in his favor.

The Chicago Tribune would be the first to report it in their early edition, with the famous headline, "Dewey Defeats Truman." Instead Truman won by more than two million popular and 114 electoral votes.

Our Democracy Un-Spun! #9 The Electoral College & The Polls

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It's 6:45 p.m. You're tired from a long day at work, and have just finished throwing something together for a quick dinner when the phone rings. It could be a telemarketer? A scam?

Or it could be Gallup Polls. Meet Ed Dubas. He works at the Gallup call center in Omaha, Nebraska, making polling phone calls for various organizations. A former used car salesman, Ed has been their best interviewer in the world for five years. He loves what he does, despite the hang-ups and four letter words. For him working for Gallup is about 'documenting the will of the people.' Gallup is especially well known for the quality of their political polls.

Our Democracy Un-Spun! #8 – Statistical Hot Spots & The Debates

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In 1776, some of the founding fathers borrowed money from France and the Netherlands to help fund the American Revolution. We owed $43 million by January 1, 1783. Congress voted to raise taxes, as well as to assume some public debt.

In 1790, with a debt estimated at $77.1 million, interest-bearing bonds were issued and the government established its good credit. Alexander Hamilton became our first Secretary of the Treasury. He helped design the strong centralized funding of the United States, including tariffs and taxes. The Louisiana Purchase cost $15 million, at just 4 cents per acre, but it derailed efforts to pay down the debt at that time.

Our Democracy Un-Spun! #7 – Statistics & How Can We Know the Truth?

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"Even such fundamental mathematical verities as … ‘1 and 1 are 2,’ can be misapplied: one cup of...

water plus one cup of popcorn are not equal to two cups of soggy popcorn." John Allen Paulos, Innumeracy, p. 67.

Our Democracy Un-Spun! #6 - Money on the Colorado Scene

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We're looking at important 2012 issues and races in Denver and in Colorado, too. In Denver, we will decide about funding for our public schools, and whether or not to reverse the limits on the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights from previous legislation.

Denver has a database for Campaign Finance Reports, and the Denver Clerk and Recorder's Office will be mailing out notices of the election soon, with summaries of the comments received for and against ballot issues.

Our Democracy Un-Spun! #5 - Money in Politics, Part 2

Hand placing ballot in box with American flag in the background.

At this phase in the election cycle, political ads are a staple of primetime TV and just about every other sort of commercial communications media. While we're accustomed to hearing the words, "I'm Barack Obama / Mitt Romney and I approve this message," the entities claiming responsibility for ads are often unfamiliar to say the least.

To evaluate claims made in political ads, voters can certainly turn to fact-checking resources but there's a case to be made for recognizing the sources of political advertisements and what biases they bring to the table. In this week's post, we'll consider the mandate for disclosure in political ads and identify ways to determine who put up the money and what they stand for.

Our Democracy Un-Spun! #4 - Money in Politics

Courtesy www.american.edu/media/news/20100907_2010_Primaries_Voter_Turnout.cfm/

Montana, 1890. Copper magnate William Clark runs for the U.S. Senate. He is not elected. In 1899, however, he wins the Senate seat, but opponents expose the financial corruption and bribery behind his election.

The Senate declares his election null and void. (You can read about the Senate process and the evidence in a digital image of the New York Times from April 24, 1900.

Our Democracy Un-Spun! #3 - Check Your Facts!!

Courtesy www.american.edu/media/news/20100907_2010_Primaries_Voter_Turnout.cfm/

It happens a lot during election years - a candidate confidently makes a statement of apparent fact and you wonder, “Can that possibly be true? What’s he or she basing that on?” Later, media pundits enter the fray, asserting or denying the claim’s validity with equal vehemence, muddying the water even more. What’s a conscientious voter to do?

It’s times like these when an on-call investigative journalist would come in handy to shed light on the issue before time and tide leave it behind and unresolved.

Our Democracy Un-Spun! #2 - Beyond the Ballot Box

Democracy depends on informed citizens --- who vote!

What does it mean to you to be an American citizen?

What do you value most in our Democracy?

What issues are critical to you in the 2012 election?

If you want your views to count, you need to get involved and vote! Do you know who votes? Young people have a whole lot at stake, but typically those over 50 (about 70%) turn out in much greater numbers than those between 18-30 (about 50%). (Data from the Current Population Survey, of the U.S. Census Bureau)

Our Democracy Un-Spun! #1 - Register to Vote!

Democracy depends on informed citizens --- who vote!

Democracy - according to Webster: "...a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people .... usually involving periodically held free elections."

Voting is a fundamental right in our democracy, but that wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t even guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution!

Initially the Founding Fathers wanted voting only for wealthy, white landowners, and then only to vote for members of Congress – not for senators, or the president. What a long way we have come from the days of the original Constitution! It took many years of struggle for African Americans (15th Amendment 1870 - Voting Rights Act of 1965) to be able to vote.

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