The College of Mount Saint Vincent Participates in VoterWatch’s Presidential Debates Project

For the past two months, I have had the distinct honor of working with a wonderful classroom of undergraduate students at The College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York City (my alma mater). Instructed by Dr. Joseph Skelly and Dr. Jacqueline Guzda, these students are studying the intersection of politics and communications.

Over the span of three in-person visits, I spoke with the students about lobbying, earmarks and the importance of the open government movement. Here at VoterWatch, we are increasingly interested in how young people in the American educational system understand and interpret these important issues. Furthermore, with the assistance of Dr. Skelly and Dr. Guzda, we were able to test the VoterWatch media player as a collaborative annotation tool in the classroom.

The students at The College of Mount Saint Vincent were, in fact, the first students in the nation to use the tool in this regard and the results are absolutely astounding. We divided the class into nine groups. In these groups, the students were assigned specific portions of the final presidential debate. Then, each group was responsible for inserting commentary—fact checks, corroborations, thoughts and perspective.

The final outcome of the students’ work showcases our tool’s educational value. We want to thank Dr. Skelly and Dr. Guzda for the honor of working with their students. Please click the image below to launch the commentary from the students at The College of Mount Saint Vincent.

The Heritage Foundation Releases Commentary on the Final Presidential Debate

While the first two presidential debates were completely inadequate in terms of providing valuable information about candidate stances, the final debate was more open in terms of scope and communication. While still not subscribing to the recommendations that The Open Debate Coalition laid out, the final debate did provide a more informative forum.

While we are happy to have Dick Morris and our “regulars” on board for this final debate, we are even more excited to announce that The Heritage Foundation and Reason Magazine have decided to participate in our final installment of the Presidential Debates Project.

Rob Bluey of The Heritage Foundation did an amazing job inserting commentary using the VoterWatch media player. Bluey brings a robust presentation of thought and perspective to the best debate of the bunch. I’m sure you’ll find the resulting product intriguing. Also, be sure to see the annotation posted on the Heritage site as well as Bluey’s piece about VoterWatch and the player on K Street Cafe. Or, to simply view the commentary.

The Transparency Recap is Back!

Today’s Transparency Recap begins with former Congressman Mark Foley’s successor, Florida Congressman Tim Mahoney. CREW blog‘s “Florida Congressman, Tim Mahoney, implicated in payoff from campaign to former ‘mistress,’” details the sex-related scandal. According to CREW blog, “West Palm Beach Congressman Tim Mahoney (D-FL)…agreed to a $121,000 payment to a former mistress who worked on his staff and was threatening to sue him.” The source of this information was Mahoney and current and past staff members of his campaign committee.

“Mahoney, who is married,” CREW blog writes, “also promised the woman, Patricia Allen, a $50,000 a year job for two years at the agency that handles his campaign advertising, the staffers said.”

This marks a pattern in Florida Congressmen, being involved in sex scandals. Although they are human, these are representatives trusted with the great responsibility of leading and maintaining the United States. Elected officials must be held to a higher moral standard.

With the heightened national concern and precaution for terrorist attacks, Secrecy News reports, the US Army has come up with the “Kidnapping and Terror in the Contemporary Operational Environment” report. The 168-page document, the 6th of an Army Instructional series, details theories regarding kidnapping based on numerous, modern case studies.

Shifting gears to All Things Whistleblower blog’s ”On Debate Transparency,” where “both presidential campaigns, and the Commission on Presidential Debates, have declined to publicly release the 31-page memo dictating the terms of the four debates this season, as outlined by this San Francisco Chronicle article.”

The memo states the agreed rules of the debate such as direct-response line of questioning, rules for the moderator, rebuttal time and other important rules. All Things Whistleblower blog writes:

There is historical precedent for releasing the memorandum. In 2004, the Bush and Kerry campaigns consented to the memorandum’s release before the debates. No cataclysm resulted. Rather, there was a healthy discussion of the agreement between the campaigns, and voters were able to understand the restrictions the candidates had placed on themselves.

With previous memos made public during an election with less favorable candidates, it should behoove the Commission on Presidential Debates and both campaigns to inform the public of the debate’s regulations. The American people are typically weary when the facts are purposely withheld.

The topic of transparency brings us to the American Constitution Society Blog’s “Supreme Court Declines Review of Georgia Death Penalty Case.” Troy Anthony Davis is an African American man who was charged with the murder of an off-duty Savannah Georgia police officer, Mark MacPhail in 1989. Davis has maintained his innocence since 1989. Since convicted, the testimonies of seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted their testimonies, claiming to have been threatened by police to attain their testimonies. Several of those who have recanted their testimonies have identified one of the remaining accusers as the real shooter. Those who have recanted their testimony could face possible jail time and other repercussions.

ACS Blog writes:

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the death sentence of Troy Anthony Davis… The high court had blocked the execution on Sept. 23, but today decided not to hear an appeal in Davis v. Georgia…the justices’ decision clears the way for Davis’ execution… former FBI Director William S. Sessions argued that the high court should block the execution, citing the large number of witnesses who have recanted their original testimony against Davis and the poor quality of representation Davis received at trial. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in six cases this week, including Bartlett v. Strickland, a case dealing with whether a racial minority group that makes up less than 50 percent of a proposed legislative district can bring a vote dilution claim under Sec. 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Being that seven of the witnesses recanted their testimonies and the questionable quality of the trial Davis received, this matter must be further investigated before a hasty decision is made.

e.the People’s Conversations blog “The Republican Party is growing into a Rabid out-of-control Lynch-mob!” explains “McCane’s” reaction to a “hate-mongering crowd.” The smears against Senator Barack Obama from a Senator e. the People’s Conversations blog refers to as “McCane,” have evoked much partisan angst and negativity. During the recent town hall meetings and conferences, some McCain supporters have referred to Obama as an untrustworthy Arab in cahoots with terrorists. The falsehoods in those arguments can be seen with rebuttal from the man himself here. Urging his crowd to respect Obama, Senator McCain was pummeled by barrages of boos.

e.the People’s Conversations blog raises the issue of selective and uninformed extremism in campaign supporters. The increase in citizen interest in the political process is beautiful, but if we as voters turn into the audience at a professional wrestling match, I don’t think we’ve advanced.

The Politics of Voter Apathy

In a funeral oration delivered by Pericles – a distinguished political leader and general of ancient Greece – for the men fallen in the first year of battle of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles asserted that “Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. We do not copy our neighbors, but are an example to them.” Pericles believed Athenian democracy to just be intrinsically better than any other political system. In the Athenian government system, a man who did not take interest in the political sphere was not deemed harmless but rather useless. At that point in Athenian history, very few people possessed the ability to vote; in deeming a man who did not fulfill his duty to vote as inadequate and useless, Pericles portrayed and intensified the significance of using that power provided to a private citizen by the government.

Not too long ago, the fifteenth amendment prevented someone from being denied the right to vote because of race and the nineteenth amendment prohibited someone from being deprived of the right to vote on the account of sex. That was no easy feat to accomplish and required the commitment of countless men and women from across the country. However, the dedication and steadfastness of these people has seemed to dissipate into the fading text of yesteryear.

I continue to struggle to understand how people could have the ability to participate in the political process but do not. At the same time, I recognize that some remain indifferent to the whole ordeal and do not want to become involved. I would rather those people that remain apathetic or uninformed do not vote. However, by forfeiting that opportunity during election time, that individual should also surrender the right to complain and criticize the state of the political system. I cannot stand whining and crying about the political sphere when that individual has done nothing but give up his/her chance to be heard. Since when did disappointment + frustration = the right to complain – the action of voting.

While I may not agree with the proposed politician in each main party, I know that I must ultimately come to a decision as participating member of society. I also recognize that as a young, knowledgeable, urbane American citizen now capable to vote in a presidential election for the first time that I have the duty and the obligation to contribute to the political process. Remember that every vote does count.

William E. Simon, businessman and former Secretary of Treasury under Nixon and then Ford, asserted, “Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.”

Public Agenda Releases Debate Commentary and Launches Interactive “Debates” Page

Earlier today, we released Dick Morris’ commentary on this week’s presidential debate. Now, we’re excited to release the second round of perspective from one of America’s most trusted research and civic engagement organizations—Public Agenda.

Public Agenda can always be relied on to present a fair and balanced look at the issues, which is why VoterWatch is honored to have the organization on board for our Presidential Debates Project. Today, Scott Bittle (Executive Vice-President of Public Agenda) released commentary on the second presidential debate. Bittle had this to say about this the town hall-style forum:

Despite the criticism of the town hall format, in many ways the second presidential debate was more substantive than the first session, and dramatically more so than the vice presidential debate last week. (I mean the real one, not the SNL version). Political junkies often say the town hall debate just regurgitates old news, but for many voters who haven’t been paying attention and are just starting to think about the candidates, that’s useful information. (Even more useful, if we may be so bold, is our Voter’s Survival Kit, which points out many of the facts that the candidates skated over in the debate.)

In addition to insightful editorial and video commentary (using the VoterWatch media player, of course), Public Agenda also released a more general page devoted to the presidential debates. This interactive hub provides information on each debate, video commentary using the VoterWatch media player, links to debate transcripts, information on and links to Public Agenda’s insanely useful Voter Survival Kit (non-partisan election guides on a variety of subjects) and much more. Be sure to check out Public Agenda’s “Debates” page. You can also click below to watch Bittle’s commentary on the second presidential debate