Sunday, December 28, 2008

Watch CBS Videos Online
A Look Back at Obama
Above is the show that ran tonight on 60 Minutes. It is broken into three sections: the first looks back at him when he started to run and wasn't taken seriously by the a lot of people (remember he was 20 points down to Clinton in October 2007), the primaries, the victory and a look ahead. Go here to see the individual videos or above to see the entire presentation.

Student News on CNN
This page might prove helpful in your government class. Go there for daily updates for your classes. Up top is their year in review. There are also quizzes, lesson plans, maps, and information sheets on selected topics in the news.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Mini Government Movies by NBC
NBC News has created a free, educational website called iCue which is AMAZING. I will be showing a lot of these to my students as they are 2-3 minutes on almost every major point you will touch on this year. It is set up following the standard US government outline and then subdivided into 10-15 videos a page. You can use a link directly to a specific page (from your PowerPoint or blog) or e-mail yourself a specific video and get the link for that one (there is no other way to get it). I really think is great, but this is a step up as it is both better quality and nice and short. There is also a page on the 2008 election.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Presidents - PBS
This is a great feature (among others) on the PBS website. Get biographies of Roosevelt, Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and H.W. Bush all on video from this site. You can download from this site for FREE until 1/20/09.

Electoral College
Lest we forget, Obama is not the president-elect until the electoral ballots are counted by the new Congress in January as this article points out. Click here to see a slide show which includes a close up of an actual ballot. Here is an earlier post on how the electoral college works as shown by a short video. (Photo from the New York Times)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Origins of the Economic Mess
Still trying to figure out the economic problems in the US. Go here for an in depth article on what went wrong and here for an interactive graphic (see above). Also go here for the first article in this series. Of course you can go to an earlier post we put here for some easy to understand videos.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Vote Smart
This is run by a bipartisan group of interns and volunteers, Project Vote Smart publishes the biographies, voting records, and other details about all presidential, congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative candidates.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Looking at the Media
Two days ago the Washington Times ran a headline that said something like "Cloud Hangs over Obama" in reference to the Blagojevich arrest as opposed the Washington Post which referred only to the governor in its headline. It was a great way to show differences in the press. Here is another one called "Outfoxed" which is a look at the bias at Fox News (be careful it is filled with a lot of former employees being interviewed). By the way if anyone can suggest a film that looks at the other channels, I'd appreciate it if you would leave me a comment so I can put it/them up as well. Also click here for a Pew Research Center for an in depth report on how people get their news (from 2006) and a recent short piece on the same topic.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Open Secrets is your nonpartisan guide to money’s influence on U.S. elections and public policy. Whether you’re a voter, journalist, activist, student or interested citizen, use our free site to shine light on your government. Count cash and make change.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Politics of the Federal Courts
Click on the picture to the left and you will get a great graphic from the Washington Post which shows the number of US circuit court judges appointed by Dems & Repubs as well as the # appointed by Bush. Then click here for an article that argues that Bush may not have changed the Supreme Court as much as he wanted, but he has had a significant impact on the circuit court level. This article talks about how Obama will be able to create a "major shift"in the federal judiciary.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Key Supreme Court Decisions
This site is put together by Street Law (which has a great programs for teachers and many other useful resources especially if you teach Street Law) and has concise overviews of each key case (as well as the complete text) and even gives different reading levels. If you want to look at a broader range of cases is the place to go.

Friday, December 5, 2008

All Things Obama!
Here are several pages that will help you teach about the incoming administration. To begin with the above page from the NY Times lists both the cabinet as well as other key positions, tells is they are nominated or appointed and then gives gives information on each person. Here and here are updates (among many other places) on the incoming administration. This one, though, is my favorite as it lists every member of the transition team and says how much they gave to Obama's campaign and to Democrats in general. Finally here is an article on the $750 which he raised for the election.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ancillaries for Magruder's Government Text
In my perfect world, the kids would have laptops instead of textbooks and these items would be linked directly to the pages for easy use. Whether you use this textbook (one of the most used regular government ones in the US) or not, these links are very useful and are broken up by chapter.

Monday, December 1, 2008

44 Makes His Moves
Polico's site is a great site to follow the action (including a daily schedule of all of his activities) as Obama names his Cabinet, advisors, sets his policy goals into future legislation and more. The New York Times is another source that mirrors Politico's site, but also has a page such as this one which allows you to pull up cabinet and other top appointments with a drop down menu and quickly read about them. Also a lot of people are comparing Obama to Lincoln with his choices so far and if you wanted to go really in depth, the book that lays this out is here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Washington Post Site

Political Science Musings
"The Department of Human Behavior"column in "The Washington Post," authored by Shankar Vedantam, has had some fabulous articles explaining political behavior. For most of the election cycle, there was a column every Monday. Recently, it has appeared periodically in the "Science" section. You can find previous columns using Proquest.

For example, on September 17, there is an article entitled "Lessons in Forced Democracy" which discusses research by political scientists on the likelihood that the United States will suceed in fostering democracy in Iraq.

On November 10, the column provides a different take on the role of political donations. See the article entitled "Big Political Donors Just Looking for Favors? Apparently Not."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Great Place for Assignment Ideas
This blog was started to try and get more interaction between teachers among the 27 high schools in the county where I teach. It has grown to be used by teachers across the country to find useful sites to aide in teaching US government. Trullinger's site, though, does a great job of posting her assignments. Here, for ex. is a great one on interest groups. If you are interested in setting up your own free blog you can go here or here . Both sides explain how to create and maintain the blogs.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Origin of the Thanksgiving Day Holiday
This very short film, while US history, actually works better for US government. Did you know that the author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" was behind the US making Thanksgiving a national holiday, that Lincoln was the president who initiated this, that there is no proof that turkey was actually eaten on the first Thanksgiving. So many nice tidbits in this video and more of the story here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Presidential Pardons
We all remember Marc Rich as the most controversial last minute pardon for Clinton (and will again hear of him at Eric Holder's confirmation hearing), but here is a great article on the big names (Michael Milken, Randy Cunningham (former Congressman), Edward Edwards (former governor). Milken has hired Ted Olson who used to be Solicitor General to try and get the pardon for his crimes for which he has already served his sentence. The other two are looking for get out of jail free cards. Here is an article on who was pardoned this Thanksgiving ( a traditional day for presidential pardons) and here is who Bush has pardoned to date.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Electoral Maps for Every Presidential Election
This pdf from the LA Times has the map above which shows how each party has done for every presidential election in US history. It also has a pictoral chart showing how each state has voted over time as well as the percentage of the vote for each party.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good Links/Lesson Plans on the Constitution and Gitmo
For the first time since the Supreme Court ruled in June 2008 that detainees at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detentions in federal court, a hearing has begun in the case of six men being held in the War on Terror. The future of the prison at Guantanamo Bay is uncertain. President-Elect Obama has stated that he would like to close it, but his aides have stated he is not close to making a decision on how it will be closed. This week’s Bill of Rights in the News focuses on the first habeas corpus hearing of six prisoners, and the future of the prison itself. There will be an online discussion with Brookings scholars on Wednesday Nov 19th at 12:30 pm on this topic. If interested, click here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Explaining the Credit Crisis

MarketPlace has a great set of short videos that help explain parts of the credit crisis. They're part of the MarketPlace Whiteboard videos.
The Plum Book of Presidential Appointments
I never seem to know exactly how many positions a president can appoint. Well here is the answer (or here if you want easier to upload chapters). This book is great as you can show the kids, literally, how many jobs Obama must appoint. Since ambassadors are one job covered in textbooks, I will show my students this page and then this page so they can see the Executive Office of the president and here for the entire cabinet. Go here for the legend. You can read an article on this process here or read how political appointees like to "borrow in" at the end of an administration and end up in high level civil servant jobs.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Too Cool!
Leave it up to Google to do something else wonderful. This link is for 2008 and includes each state's results for the House, Senate and presidential elections. The bottom one does the same for each presidential year going back to 1980, but it also includes demograhics such as income, race and age.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Entire US Government Course Online
This is supposed to be an AP US government course, but much, if not all, could also be used for regular government. It included flash movies for each chapter as well as textbook chapters and ancillary materials. It would be a good link for students who need extra help. Most of the material comes from Hippo Campus.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Executive Orders
Traditionally the first official act a new president does right after being sworn in is to sign an executive order. CNN has a good article, here, discussing the controversial decisions that Obama may change from the Bush administration. The video above is also a good discussion. If you want to see all executive orders since 1937, click here. Two of the more famous executive orders are Truman's one integrating the military and Clinton's "Don't ask don't tell."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Swing State Over The Last 20 Years
This is a great series of graphics of VA from 1980-2008 showing each county/city and which way they votes for president. It is also a good way to show students how the power bases continues to move to the urban areas (NOVA and Hampton Roads in this case).
Different Ways of Looking at the Electoral Results
This looks at the results by electoral college and then distorts the college to reflect the vaule of each state and then looks at the country returns by county and much more.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Politico 44 and Congress 2008
The first site, "Politico44" will be great if you are doing the executive branch soon for such things as Cabinet picks. Right now there is an article on Rahm Emmanuel accepting the chief of staff position. Likewise, "Congress2008" updates everything you need to know about the new Congress including the as yet to be determined races.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Breakdown of Votes
Click here for what we have on yesterday's vote and here so you can see a comparison to 2004.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Amazing Electoral Returns
Click here (or above) and you can get live results from every state for presidential, US Senate and the House of Representatives.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What and When to Watch on Election Night
This is a well stated list of what to watch on election night for the McCain-Obama race as well as the Senate races. You could also go here for a similar one from Newsweek.

Friday, October 31, 2008

McCain-Feingold 2002?!
Remember when 527s were important in 2004? Now even the RNC and the DNC, with their "independent expenditure units" have found a way around the law. In swing states one hard hitting, albeit late 527 is the Republican Trust which is running the above ad among others it has made. More (Warning, there is one profane word which you might not want to show your students.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Good Explanation of the Polls
This is a good one for your students to watch. It explains both the slightly closing national trend as well as the individual swing states.

The Latest Ads
The "winking Palin" ad on top is getting a lot of press. Below is the most recent McCain advertisement.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Referenda Questions and Candidates Nationwide
I suppose we all have taught our students who are running, but in case you still need the information, it can be found here. More importantly this site has referenda questions from every state in the union and even goes as far as local issues. So, for example, here is the one question for Fairfax County, VA as well as the federal candidates running for office.
Online Quizzes
For those of you who teach AP government, here are free access quiz questions that go with the Wilson/Dilulio textbook, "American Government." But since no AP text actually gives five stemmed questions, this might also serve as a good review for regular government students as well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spending During the Third Week of October
To see the spending last week by McCain and Obama, go here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Electoral College from March to Today
This is a pretty interesting interactive map from Karl Rove's site. If you drag the arrow from one side to the other, you can see how the electoral college has changed over the last seven months. Above is a concise discussion of the electoral map from "The Fix" which is on the Washington Post's site..

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Winning the Media Campaign
Most government books seem to have weak chapters on the media (possibly because the medium is changing so rapidly), but this study migh help you. It is based on Pew Research statistical studies and has a number of great charts which allow you to quickly show your students pictorally what was going on at a given point in time since the national conventions. For example, it shows the just following the collapse of Lehrman Brothers, the positive coverage of Obama went up and then after McCain suspended his campaign, coverage of him actually turned negative. In a sense some of this backs up what political scientists (and here, here and here) say which is that the percentage of public approval for the sitting president and the perception of the economy's strength are what is important a president, not what the campaigns are doing.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Candidate Bios Made for the Classroom
Wow! Talk about being made for the classroom. PBS has a great series (Frontline: The Choice) on both candidates, their backgrounds and inside the campaign looks all in short 7-8 minute segments. Click here to see it and when you get to the site, click on the segment you want and start watching.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Amazing Election Map
Yes DailyKos is a liberal blog site, but this map is just the facts, Jack! You can look at 2002-2008 (or will be able to see the '08 results in a few days) and see for any state see House, Senate, gubernatoral or presidential results, district by district. It also shows a tally of seats in the House and Senate in those years. To see the map, click on the picture or here.

A Short Video on the Electoral College

Click above to see a short video on how the electoral college works which you could show as a review for your students. It also might prove as an example if you wanted your students to create their own simple movies (for example you can use movie maker).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Candidate and Interest Groups Ads from April - October
Over $368 million was spent from April 3 to Oct. 20, 2008 to broadcast over 290 ads, according to statistics compiled by Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising expenditures. This site is rather amazing. Just click on the candidate or interest group and it will tell you how much was spent and you can see (and play) all of their commercials (in case you and your students haven't had your fill yet!).
A "Dead Certain" Look at McCain
Okay most of the items on this site give you tools to be a better government teacher, but this one just is a good read and looks at the inside of the McCain campaign and its changing message. It will be printed this Sunday in the NYTimes magazine and is by Robert Draper who, last year, wrote "Dead Certain." Click here for the article.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Patchwork Nation
A really good website that also works for political understanding is Patchworknation made by the Christian Science Monitor. It looks at where the two candidates have made their campaign appearances and then asks the students to determine why a candidate would make a stop in a particular area versus another given the background of the location.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who is Running for President?
Yes. Remember there are a lot more people than Obama and McCain. Click here for the six candidates in VA and their electors. The 8th district elector is a former VA state delegate and the 10th district elector ran for the House of Delegates in 1995. To see all the candidates (and there are a lot) nationwide, go here. To see state by state go here.

Poll Tracking

This site collects multiple polls from each state and tries to determine how the state will actually vote. They update the data daily. It is a very good indicator as to how November 4th should end up in all of the federal races.

Fun Gag for President

This site helps you create a realistic news story about an unknown running for president. You can enter any name you like and the name is added to the news clip. The students get a big laugh out of it.

Growing Voters

Check out Growing Voters. It's a site which has election-related lessons run by Lesley University.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Past Election Data and Maps

The David Leip's Atlas of US Presidential Elections is a great resource for showing popular and Electoral College vote. Also, it has 3rd party election data. Much more.
The $150 million Man
In 2000, W. Bush smashed Clinton's records by raising $100 million during the primary season and then in 2004 Kerry and Bush both brought in around $200 million, but Obama has now raised about $605 million. Remember he is the first presidential candidate not to accept federal funds during the general campaign (now up to $85 million). In August he raised $67 million which was the old record before September when he raised $150 million. To see his spending in the swing states last week, go here. To see campaign spending reports, go here.
Can A President Tame an Economy?
This is a great graphic where you can roll over each item and see the changes from Truman through W. Bush. As the article says Today, Americans save less and earn a lower minimum wage — in real, or inflation-adjusted, terms — than at nearly any other time since 1950. Can voters reasonably expect these and other indicators to change significantly after a new president takes office in January? Click here for the article.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Bradley Effect!
In 1982, LA Mayor Tom Bradley (D) lost the race for the CA governor's mansion even thought he was 10 points up in the polls just prior to election day. The thought is that people will tell a pollster in a race with a white and a non-white canididate that they are voting for the non-white person only to do the opposite on election day. In VA, it is also known as the "Wilder effect" after he won the governor's race by seven points less than on election day. At any rate there have been several articles on this recently and the question is will it have an impact on this year's presidential race. Here is one analysis from and another one from the Washington Post. The other side is the "reverse Bradley effect" found here. Above is a recent clip on the effect from SNL.

Monday, October 13, 2008

CSPAN For the Classroom
This site has a lot of relevant video for you to share with the students. For example, here is a clip discussing McCain and Obama's views on the current membership of the Supreme Court. Here is a 3 minute clip of Sec. Paulson discussing the federal government's takeover of "Fannie and Freddie" and here is Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, talking before the Senate Banking Committee about the bailout. Also go here for the politics link where there are the latest polls, all the presidential/vice presidential debates, campaign speeches and political rallies, campaign ads, and an interactive electoral college map. We also have a thing called Debate Hub which allows you to watch the upcoming debate in its absolute entirety - from the moment they turn the cameras on. It's neat because you get to see all the "pregame" action, if you will, of the moderator explaining the rules and, reporters doing their standups and at times, the candidates preparing for the debate. There's also a blog and Twitter roundup. And we typically have a live camera at some venue where people are watching the debate. You get to hear and see immediate reaction from the crowd.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Electoral College Map Over Time

Karl Rove has a great tool on his site that shows the Electoral Vote Map over time, starting last March.

Great video resource

Bookmark This is a free streaming video site which contains a variety of videos related to US Government. The videos are broken down by chapter, so you don't have to sit through the entire video if you don't wish.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Watch All the Debates from 1960 - 2000
This is a great site as it has all of the presidential debates for the last forty years. It also has transcipts, analysis, etc. Click here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Deliberating in the Classroom
First off what is deliberation? This site explains the technique and gives you plenty of lessons that work in the classroom. Go here to see the site.

Presidential Debate Highlights
The video above is 10 minutes of the highlights of the debate. Also click here to see CNN highlights from the second presidential debate.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Polls and the Electoral College

Here's the latest Electoral College map based on recent state by state polls compiled by

Obama Outspending McCain Nearly 3 to 1 on Television

For the month of September, Brack Obama spent $20 million on ads versus John McCain's $7.5 million. Check it out in the Washington Post. Oh, why is Obama spending money in Montana? Virginia Spending is at left.
Bill of Rights Institute
The Bill of Rights Institute offers a variety of educational resources free of charge. Weekly eLessons offer 20-minute discussion guides for middle and high school history and government teachers. Each eLesson includes a lively background reading, discussion questions and extension options. Also, be sure to check out one of the Educating the Next Generation blog, to find out how we're applying knowledge in the classroom. Browse their Constitution Day, Bill of Rights Day, and Primary Source Activities sections to access these resources which include interactive Flash presentations, lesson plans, readings, and activities.

The Latest Ads
McCain on top and then Obama.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Biden-Palin Debate
The vice-presidental debate in 10 minutes as put together by TPN. Click on the embedded video above to see the highlights of the debate.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Do We Really Care About the National Popular Vote?
Political scientists' models have been predicting an overwhelming victory by Obama since the summer. Their models are largely based on the perception of the economy's strength and the popularity of the sitting president - both dismal. But that's for the popular vote and what matters is the electoral college. Above Nate Silver of the site explains his site which relies on complex math computing based on a number of polls to decide the electoral count. If you want it very simply, go to Electoral Vote or a similar page with CNN and you will be able to click on any state and see vote totals pop up.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New 527 Ad Which Will Debut Tomorrow
Yes McCain-Feingold is supposed to stop third party ads in the last 60 days of an election, BUT, the way around it is to become a 527 (so named from the part of the tax code which you have to file when you organize). So Vets for Freedom, a 527, will come out on Wednesday with the commercial above.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Googe Election Video Search
Google Elections Video Search allows you and your students to directly query YouTube political videos for their spoken content. Using speech-to-text technology, videos from political channels are automatically transcribed and indexed. Simply enter a search term to find relevant videos and jump immediately to where your term was mentioned.

Sunday, September 28, 2008
Slate has a number of articles, but for those of you who want cartoons, it also collects them together here. This week, it has a bunch of McCain ones, which are here.