Seeking “Truth”: My Process for Critically Assessing Information

OK, so I recently started working for CIRCLE ( and one of my first tasks was to share data and analysis on a recent poll on young Americans 18 to 29 and their attitudes towards the upcoming  election , leading policy issues, their involvement with civic organizations, methods that influence their voting behavior and a range of other questions.  The data and initial post about this poll can be found here —

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Politics, Policy, and Citizen Participation in City Governance

Rebecca Moryl and myself facilitated a workspace conversation with individuals who were part of the Boston regional meeting of the 2010 National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation.  Our session explore the intersection of citizen engagement in local issues via government and community-based organizations.  My interested in self-organizing systems was the focus of my efforts.  Our session note are available for download.

Previously we had presented with Rebecca Lisi at the Tufts Civic Studies, Civic Practices gathering a similar workshop that explore the role of government and community-based organizations in promoting and sustaining citizen participation.  Our session notes are available for download.

Obama Speech – “A More Perfect Union”

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
“A More Perfect Union”
Constitution Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Watch the entire speech and read the text below the video player:


“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

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The Net and the 2006 mid-term electon

Jeff Jarvis relfects on the importance of the Internet in shaping the outcome of this election. Here are his thoughts

I think the internet brought more change to the biorhythms of American politics inthis election than the last, but in more subtle ways that we can only now begin to measure.Start with this: Wouldn’t it be ironic if the netroots’ excommunication of Joe Lieberman led the Democrats to lose a seat and not quite get control of the Senate? It won’t matter much in reality, of course. Lieberman’s still a Democrat, whether some Democrats want him or not.But there’s a lesson here for newly empowered popular movements and for political parties. It’s just not clear yet what that lesson is. Does the law of unintended consequences rule: A movement rose up to purge Lieberman from the party but ended up losing one for the party? Or does this demonstrate to party leaders that they can’t lose control of their parties? Can they still? The people and the power brokers have to figure out who’s on top.And:YouTube allowed anyone with a camera to report on any candidate and so now any misstatement gains toxicity and speed; this is the true viral politics.The speed of politics has changed, just as the speed of media did before it. Dan Rather couldn’t wait 11 days to correct his mistake. Allen and Kerry couldn’t wait hours to back off their media malaprops.The voice of politics has changed, not just because the people can now be heard in our blogs but also because we can cut through the nonsense of media coverage with the no-nonsense attitude of comedy news. On YouTube, you can remix and mock any politician. Anyone can be Jon Stewart. Everyone can call bullshit. I hope we are starting to see the death of the dutiful voice of politics in America.Yes, this was an incredibly ugly, TV-run election in many races (including our Senate race in New Jersey) but I believe that we will see an ever-declining influence of television and political advertising on TV in future elections. They will find new ways to get ugly in new media.

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Shades of Meaning

Off and on over the last few years I’ve thought about the variation in meanings these three concepts embody:

  • United States of America
  • America
  • USA

They each have subtle differences for me.  For instance, “United States of America” feels very constitutional to me.  A term that embodies the formal aspects of the country.  While “America” is more symbolic.  For me it embodies those things like “baseball,” “apple pie,” “the people,” “plains of wheat,” “the rocky mountains,” and the “Statue of Liberty”.  Finally, USA is the corporate brand.  The snazzy logo that sells us to the rest of the world.

Wonder what others think.  What other variations exist?

Americans Trust Miltary more than Civic Institutions

From the same issue of Harper’s that I referenced in my 4/16 post here is a disturbing stat:

Americans have an incredible trust in the military. In poll after poll they have much more confidence in the armed forces than they do in other institutions. The most recent poll, just this past spring, had trust in the military at 74 percent, while trust in Congress was at 22 percent and the presidency was at 44 percent. In other words, the armed forces are much more trusted than the civilian institutions that are supposed to control them.

This from an article about scenarios for coup d’etats in the US. And we wonder how Nazi Germany came to power.