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January 20, 2015


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According to the Huffington Post (and a few relatives in Education), the new requirement is "the civics portion of the U.S. citizenship test" that is given during the naturalization process:

"Arizona approved new legislation on Thursday requiring high school students to pass the civics portion of the U.S. citizenship test in order to graduate.

During a naturalization interview, people seeking U.S. citizenship are asked 10 civics questions chosen from a pool of 100. An applicant must get at least six of these questions correct to pass this portion of the test.

In Arizona, students will be given all 100 questions, and they will need to get 60 correct to graduate. Sam Stone, executive director of the Civics Education Initiative, the group that pushed the legislation in Arizona, said teachers do not need to administer the test all at one time, and that students will have multiple opportunities to pass."

So at least we know that Arizona will be not authoring the test, per se. Now the important part is, what literature will be allowed in the classroom? Given that this is the internet age it will be hard for Arizona to restrict what students read when a questions in class is posed. It will be even more difficult to limit what students say as a result of material they find.

Strange to get 25 out of 25 on a test and not feel good about it. Which ocean is on the east coast? Maybe harder: Who is buried in Grant's tomb?

Anyways, I am with Jon: this is better than worse.

Lastly, I highly recommend this Coursera class when it cycles to the front again:


It's brilliant good. And once you take it, you have access at any time to the videos, links, and post. I was so impressed with the prof's ability to present both sides of various arguments that I bought of signed copy of his dabble into fiction.

Highly recommend.

Virtually every aspect of our civic life can be weaponized in this cold civil war. Sex, science, taxes, religion, race, the environment, and even transportation are now hot buttons between Real Americans and the rest of us. Accordingly, Real Americans laugh at trains, climate science, and Big Government (except when it's telling Americans what to think, how to have sex, or the need to sacrifice civil liberties for national security).

What could go wrong with a civics test? You already know.

I don't get it. If you have to pass the civics class to get a diploma, in addition to economics, US history, so many semesters of math, English, science, why do you have to pass a citizenship test after passing the civics class? To me its an example of politicians interfering with teaching to pander for votes.

To wit:


Next this test will be required of all voters and will be administered and graded by white males loyal to the Confederacy.

I sure hope for a spirited discussion of Citizens United. I sure don't understand how anyone could disagree with this, but I'm sure someone does.

"If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech."

By outlining his position on certain items, Rogue simply demonstrates the problem. There's no objectivity.

Rogue would prefer a teacher boast about how SCOTUS got it wrong on the Citizen's United and 2000 election decisions. I'd want a teacher who pushed the lunacy of the expansion of a right to privacy in Roe v Wade.

Soleri asked a question I agree with 100%. We all already know what could go wrong in a civics test.

Nice work by phxSUNSfan on getting more facts about the actual test.

My wife is a teacher in PUHSD. Her students think that MLK freed the slaves and Lincoln was the first president. They have absolutely no knowledge of how our republican democracy is supposed to work, which makes it impossible to have a deeper discussion about how the theory of our system has been perverted over time (regardless of which side of the aisle you blame). One student told her he'd like to attend the electoral college after high school.

I share the concerns over who is authoring the curriculum, but at the same time, even an extremely right-wing, white-washed version of civics has to be better than a generation of voters who think they can study at the electoral college.

westbev93, I hope your wife isn't their history teacher.

INPHX, I wouldn't want to argue about the legal reasoning behind Roe in 1973. But having done so, SCOTUS has effectively established a right to privacy that lives in "the penumbra of liberty" (pace Harry Blackmun). Who is against freedom? We know who. The same people who see Baby Jesus in corporations.

Law is a human construct that advances in fits and starts. That women have autonomy over their own bodies was an advance for the cause of liberty. Most Americans still prefer freedom to the tyranny that emanates from your tribe of political cynics and religious hysterics.


Ever think that someone could be pro choice but perhaps recognize the stretch of a right to privacy in Roe v Wade?

Didn't think so-- cause then you'd lose your "tribes of politcal cynics and religious hysterics" and once you lose that vapid stereotyping, you're left with things like nuance, detail, and subtle distinctions.

And a guy like you can't have that, now can you?

INPHX, so you disagree with a 7-2 SCOTUS decision from 1973, written, in fact, by a Nixon appointee? Too bad.

Dred Scott was a bad decision. Citizens United almost equally so. But Constitutional law is not something that requires our legal reasoning after the fact. It is the fact.

Your "subtle distinctions" have the Rovian nuance some of us call might bullshit. I suspect you're merely grateful for anything that gets witless yahoos voting Republican because they "love" fetuses more than actual human beings.

@Soleri: Re: “"love" fetuses more than actual human beings.” A lot of us think that fetus is in fact an actual human being. But even I’m OK contraception, the morning after pill, even a very early term abortion – say up to 8 weeks. After that it is not a lump of tissue – it’s a person.

Some things are not debatable, and I think this in one of them. You and I will just have to disagree on this one.

wkg, the thing I don't get is why we simply don't make the vast majority of abortions unnecessary. Say with sex education and easily available conception. Wouldn't that count as a win-win?

Do I need to tell you who is against sex education and OTC contraceptives? High-minded values on the right come with a price tag computed in smug disdain and callousness for women who had sex.

My sister almost died from a back-alley abortion back in 1969. No one knew at the time since it was too shameful to even talk about. Today, we are not nearly so hamstrung by our human nature. Some people still cannot accept theirs.

When "values voters" also see human beings as having a right to live, then I think we can actually make progress on this front. But I seriously doubt the religious right is interested in progress. Worshiping fetuses is a fine hobby but you shouldn't ostentatiously flaunt your virtue for political ends. The same right-wingers who do this are usually against universal health care, which comes at a cost of 45,000 lives a year. The same right-wingers also don't care if we invade a country and kill 100,000 plus civilians. And they are far more likely to support torture. Which demographic takes the only morally defensible position on torture? Atheists. http://atheism.about.com/od/Atheist-Agnostic-Belief-Survey/fl/Christians-Atheists-Torture-Survey.htm

I have this sense that this "Christian love" is really just one more way to have a superiority complex at the expense of other people. It's why I am skeptical of Christianity as a religion. It's less about love than tribal identity.

INPHX, I think that when the courts rule that corporations are people, it’s very much like ‘tea party’ Republicans saying that the Boston Tea Party was not about patriots protesting special corporate liberty.

Which has some irony, considering that it is 'tea party' Republicans who support special corporate liberty.


When should politcal speech in this country be restrained?

Should it matter who "authors" it? A corporation? A union? A church? An association? A tax exempt?


Wouldn't that be "easily available contraception"??

INPHX, indeed.

The last refuge of the pedant is the other person's typo.

Free speech for everyone and every entity and no borders!

@Soleri: not going to get sucked into your ever expanding circle of grievances, sticking to abortion and related topics:

Re: “wkg, the thing I don't get is why we simply don't make the vast majority of abortions unnecessary.” Exactly; something we can totally agree on.

Re: “Say with sex education and easily available conception.” I don’t think this an education problem at all. The average 16 year old knows more about sex than you or I will ever know. As far as I know contraceptives are readily available; they’re just not used.

My reservations about “sex education” are the same as the main article’s concerns about “civic education”. What’s going to be the message?

You bring up the topic of you sister, I’ll bring up the topic of my niece. See has two children by two different men. Neither married her or has much of anything to do with the kids. Unfortunately, this is the new normal. She’s (my niece) camped out in her mother’s (my sister) house. At least in this case, the kids have a reasonably good support system. It’s about as good as it can get – even if it’s not all that good.

I view children having children as probably the biggest problem facing the country.

The only possibility of justifying abortion is that it is the lesser of two evils.

Re: “When "values voters" also see human beings….”: we’re all value voters. Our values are just different.

Our State Department of Ed. requires all high school graduates take a semester each of Economics (or its equivalent-like my 1st year Marketing class) AND Government. This new civics 'requirement' has existed for years....

INPHX, There are restraints on political speech in this country regardless of what I think.
I think it is legal in most states that corporate campaign spending (interpreted as speech) is unlimited. Individuals, on the other hand, can spend $5,200. on speech and I don’t think churches are allowed to donate to a campaign.

In the Citizens United ruling, I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has acted as a legislative branch in determining that corporations are people with special ‘speech’ interests.

wkg, children are not the problem. We are. We abuse them, ignore them, and then punish them for becoming reflections of their child-like parents. This is one place I can join hands with "values voters", at least the conscious ones: every child deserves happiness and love. Indeed, I think this should be the next liberation movement facing American citizens. Every infant born in this country has a basic human right to a decent childhood. I say that in the most radical sense possible: biological parents should not own their children. They're guardians of a sacred trust and if they abuse or neglect those children, they should lose custody of them.

Abortion is another matter, one used by political cynics to appeal to low-information voters. Mitt Romney used to belong to Planned Parenthood. The whole Bush clan was pro-choice up until career advancement changed their minds. Ronald Reagan signed the nation's most liberal abortion law as governor of California.

Republican operatives care about abortion the same way johns care about their hookers. It delivers the goods. That's why pols cry crocodile tears about the unborn and you vote for them not fully realizing that their actual aim is just to redistribute this nation's wealth to the rich.

There is no other advanced nation on Earth having this debate. But then, there's only one Republican Party mind-fucking its voters with Culture War garbage.

I never met an avid pro-lifer who wasn't also narcissistic. That is, their belief system was predicated not on love for other people but how saintly they seem to themselves for opposing "child murder". But do born children deserve school lunches? Health care? Good public education regardless of the tax base supporting their school district?

You know the answer. Of course not. Your party has already wiped its hands of those moochers.

We could take this issue seriously but we'd rather not spend the money. Better give the tax revenue back to the "job creators". They know exactly where to offshore it.

The Republican party went south in 64!
The same year I quit watching professional sports.
Now what I call Thugism
oh that's also the definition of politics.

@Soleri: Is your point “if you don’t abort them – they’ll grow up in an environment of neglect and abuse”? Oddly enough, this is one thing I can agree with you on. Every child ever born is going to be subjected to some level of neglect. Abuse is a very elastic term- so I even go so far as to say all will be subjected to some level of abuse.

The idea that the situation can be remedied by some legislative fiat or program is absurd.

Here’s what it would take: all parents have infinite time and resources.

INPHX, On Roe vs. Wade I think that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg would agree with you.

I quote “It's not that she [Justice Ginsberg] opposes the holding that recognizes a right to an abortion. It's that she opposes the logic of the 1973 court's majority opinion and the constitutional basis under which seven justices arrived at their conclusion.
"Roe isn't really about the woman's choice, is it?" the Clinton-appointed justice said last May at the University of Chicago Law School. "It's about the doctor's freedom to practice ... it wasn't woman-centered, it was physician-centered."
Her pique is that the Roe opinion, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, relies on a "right of privacy" under the 4th Amendment and emphasizes the right of physicians to practice medicine as they see fit. She prefers that abortion rights be recognized under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, based on the view that having a child should be a woman's choice.


This is a snippet of an article by Gary Grado in the Arizona Capitol Times...

And while Douglas agreed with the business community that graduates aren’t ready for jobs, she doesn’t think job training is enough. She gave a plug to the first bill passed and signed this year, HB2064, which requires high school students to pass a civics test to graduate.

I have worked over 50 years and cannot recall ever being asked a civics question at work. I was asked why water was wet once. The person did not like the scientific explanation I gave them. I have often wondered what answer they wanted....

What a bunch of drama queens.

Civics test. Good idea. End of story. Move on.

Playing catch-up" from a previous thread:

Jerry McKenzie wrote:

"...there is no "explosion" in tax receipts..."

Yes there is. In FY 2010 federal receipts were about 2.2 trillion dollars. In FY 2014 they were $3 trillion. That's a 36 percent increase in just four years: an "explosion" by anyone's standards.

The deficit decreased from $1.3 trillion in FY 2010 to $483 billion in FY 2014. It's no coincidence that the difference in these deficits ($817 billion) is almost exactly equal to the increase in revenues over this period.


I don't understand how anyone could doubt that an increase in revenues is responsible for the decrease in the deficit, since there are only two ways to decrease the deficit: (1) increase revenues; or (2) decrease spending. Did you really suppose that spending decreased since 2010?

Incidentally, Mr. McKenzie, you and others may be confused about the deficit because the debt has grown, particularly if you are looking at gross federal debt rather than debt held by the public..

Gross federal debt can increase even with a balanced budget (which, of course, we don't have) because it includes accounting funny-business involving the Social Security and Medicare, etc. "trust funds".

A much better metric for debt is "debt held by the public". That too has increased since 2010; but the bulk of the increase in this debt has been purchased by the Federal Reserve System as part of its economic manipulations.

If you look at debt held by the public, net of Federal Reserve debt, you find that from FY 2010 to FY 2013 this has increased from $8.2 trillion to $9.9 trillion, with most of the increase early on, when receipts were still very low because of the post-recessionary economic problems. I omit FY 2014 because I don't have those figures, but because the deficit has shrunk the additional debt to the public has grown more slowly.



You can find receipts and outlays in Table 1.3, and debt in Table 7.1 of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Historical Tables linked to above.

Since the U.S. Treasury Department is the ultimate (and only) source for this data, I assume no one will object to a government source.

Clarification: from FY 2010 through FY 2013, debt held by the public increased by about $3 trillion. Of this, about $1.2 trillion was purchased by the Federal Reserve; $1.7 trillion is an increase in debt held by the public (net of Federal Reserve purchases) and is due to deficit spending; and most of the latter occurred early on because of larger deficits (because of smaller revenues, because of the slow economy). Rounding error accounts for any inconsistency of these figures.

While FOX News hypes the new "American Sniper" movie shamelessly, a Village Voice review has brought certain facts to light about the movie's "hero":

"The real Chris Kyle complicated things further. Kyle claimed that he killed two men who attempted to carjack him in Texas and got only a pat on the head from police impressed with his service record. (Country sheriffs deny the shooting ever happened.) He claimed that he had been hired by Blackwater to snipe armed looters at the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina (a fellow SEAL said that “defies the imagination”). And he even claimed that he had gotten into a bar fight with Jesse Ventura, who won a $1.8 million defamation lawsuit against Kyle's estate. (His estate could afford it, as Kyle's talk-show-circuit j'accuse of the former governor caused sales of his autobiography to spike from 3,400 copies to No. 2 on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list.)

"...Kyle's actual enemies were less defined. As seen here, any Iraqi man between 10 and 60 isn't middle-aged but “military-aged” — i.e., a threat. Kyle seemed to think that of every Muslim, writing in his book, “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.” (That, too, Eastwood deletes.)"


The review references a friend of the real-life sniper, another Navy Seal named Luttrell whose exploits were the subject of another fictionalized movie called Lone Survivor.

I didn't see Lone Survivor but I did read the book, which was nauseating. I never read as much whining in any biography. Chiefly, Luttrell attacks "liberal politicians" who he blames for such things as basic rules of engagement, which (gasp!) require identifing enemy targets.

In the book Luttrell blames Washington liberals for feeling less than completely free to shoot any old Afghani at whim, particularly if armed. (We all know that these rules of engagement aren't enforced anyway, especially for Seals, but evidently the mere theoretical possibility of some sort of disciplinary action gives the whiny Luttrell a bad case of the jitters.) Yet, elsewhere in the book Luttrell admits that nearly all Afghani men carry arms, including the non-Taliban Afghani villagers who rescued his sorry ass from the Taliban and nursed him back to health.

Mr. Pulsifer, I am not confused about the increase in debt. Overall debt is increasing even tho annual budget deficits may decrease (or increase) from year-to-year. 36% over four years is not an explosion in revenue in my opinion (what is that 6 to 8% annual?).

ASU began teaching a course titled, "U.S. Race Theory and the Problem of Whiteness":

"Five books are listed as required for the upper-division class, called 'U.S. Race Theory and the Problem of Whiteness.' The texts include 'Playing in the Dark' by Toni Morrison, an acclaimed novelist who has won a Pulitzer Prize, a Nobel Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The other required books are 'Critical Race Theory: An Introduction' by Richard Delgado, 'Everyday Language of White Racism' by Jane Hill, 'Alchemy of Race & Rights' by Patricia Williams, and 'The Possessive Investment in Whiteness' by George Lipsitz.

ASU issued a statement about the class:

'This course uses literature and rhetoric to look at how stories shape people's understandings and experiences of race. It encourages students to examine how people talk about – or avoid talking about – race in the contemporary United States. This is an interdisciplinary course, so students will draw on history, literature, speeches and cultural changes – from scholarly texts to humor. The class is designed to empower students to confront the difficult and often thorny issues that surround us today and reach thoughtful conclusions rather than display gut reactions. A university is an academic environment where we discuss and debate a wide array of viewpoints.'

Fox News correspondent Elisabeth Hasselbeck called the course 'quite unfair, and wrong, and pointed' on 'Fox & Friends' Friday morning."

This is stirring things up in the Fox "Newsroom", of course. The "anti-Tempe, anti-liberal" backlash is soon to follow, no doubt. ASU has been expanding liberal arts classes like this, particularly regarding race and gender issues, for decades. The explicitness of the course title in this case is bringing far more attention to the university. Conservatives will now be up in arms about "their tax dollars" going to such liberal agendas.

Link to the story and interview:


Right now ASU's homepage leads with this statement: "Honoring the dreamers and the doers"

It regards, in part, ASU's annual tradition of a professor who "teaches classes in acting, directing and technical production for the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies in ASU’s New College" reading the "I Have a Dream Speech". I wouldn't be surprised if this spurs further vitriol from the right.

If you are right wing or left wing, you eyes cannot see the truth and your ears cannot hear the truth.

Deaf, blind and thus dumb.

phxsunfan u reminded me of the following.

Jerry McKenzie wrote:

"Overall debt is increasing even tho annual budget deficits may decrease (or increase) from year-to-year."

True, but not in question.

"36% over four years is not an explosion in revenue in my opinion (what is that 6 to 8% annual?)."

Actually, in simple interest it's 10 percent a year ($2,163 billion to $3,002 billion over four years); but most of the growth in receipts occurred in just two years, from FY 2012 to FY 2014: from $2,450 billion to $3,002 billion); and that's an annual growth rate of 12 percent (simple interest). Growth from 2012 to 2013 alone was about 13.25 percent. That's significantly above the growth in receipts during the best of the Reagan years.

I don't think it's critical whether we call this an "explosion" or simply fast, healthy growth, as long as it's acknowledged that the decrease in the deficit resulted from an increase in federal receipts, and that Obama's tax increases obviously didn't prevent this and in fact contributed to the size of the growth in receipts.

When can we expect to see a multidisciplinary course on "The Problem of Blackness" from ASU?

"When can we expect to see a multidisciplinary course on "The Problem of Blackness" from ASU?"

Since Blacks in the U.S. never enslaved Whites, never created an entire wretched economy based on its labor, never wreaked havoc on Native American populations, did not have control of institutional racism, etc., that would be never.

"Whiteness" used in a university course isn't an over-generalization about the White race. It isn't an indictment and is not so much about "The Problem with White Folk". This in an important distinction. The subject deals with more abstract notions of race theory that include: racial privilege, power of the group, and a propensity to exclude those who are different (even unintentionally).

ASU does offer courses that deal with many difficult racial issues that include crime, education, poverty, and so on. Different races/ethnic groups are even used in course titles.

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