Hawaii apology resolution

The November issue of the Harvard Law Review covers the Supreme Court 2008 term. The section on Leading Cases includes a discussion of Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, in which the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Hawaii Supreme Court regarding the 1993 joint resolution acknowledging "the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii" in 1893 and apologizing to Native Hawaiians, S.J. Res. 19 (pdf, 5pp), P.L. No. 103-150.

The case concerned a Maui tract of former crown land that was ceded to the United States at annexation and held by the State. The Hawaii high court ruled that the State had "a fiduciary duty as trustee to protect the ceded lands pending a resolution of native Hawaiian claims." The U.S. Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Apology Resolution did not strip Hawaii of its authority to "sell, exchange, or transfer" ceded lands. The final section of the Resolution is a Disclaimer: "Nothing in this Joint Resolution is intended to serve as a settlement of any claims against the United States."

The Harvard writer states, "The Hawaii case is remarkable for the apparent consensus that the Apology Resolution was legally insignificant," and concludes:
We have become accustomed to an overwhelming amount of empty political rhetoric — politicians’ words that are neither false nor efficacious. Congressional resolutions are a prime culprit....it is easy to understand a congressional apology as mere "conciliatory and precatory" verbiage with no actual legal effect. By reading the resolution this way, however, the Court accepted and perpetuated an understanding of political rhetoric as meaningless and impotent. The Court should instead take seriously the possibility that congressional language may be legally significant, even where it is not, strictly speaking, used to create legal rights.

Hawaii Apology Resolution (pdf, 11pp), Harvard Law Review, Nov. 2009, pp. 302-312



Daily Bread

bread for the worldONE, "a grassroots campaign and advocacy organization...committed to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease," blogs today on the organization, Bread for the World, and their 2010 Hunger Report.
The report notes that hunger is on the rise in both the U.S. and abroad—1.02 billion people are suffering from food insecurity around the world, up 100 million from last year. The report also argues that green jobs are the best investment that the U.S. can make. Green jobs will not only help reduce both unemployment numbers and carbon emissions, but they could also help address hunger and poverty throughout the developing world.
Bread for the World provides both html and pdf access to the report with interactive and downloadable data sets. Besides global statistics, the data sets include:
  • U.S.: Hunger And Health
  • U.S.: Income Security
  • U.S.: National Hunger and Poverty Trends
  • U.S.: State Hunger and Poverty Statistics

The 2010 Hunger Report, A Just and Sustainable Recovery. - Bread for the World

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Costs of reducing emissions

In a brief issued yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) discusses the economic costs of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S. in terms of (1) determinants of costs, and (2) size of costs.

What determines the costs of reducing emissions?
  • Emissions in the absence of policy changes - if emissions are allowed to grow, mitigation costs would be greater
  • Types of policies adopted - regulatory or market-based
  • Response of the economy - the more easily producers and consumers can respond to price changes, the lower costs would be
  • Efforts by other countries - their policies would influence U.S. costs
How large are estimated costs?
  • Changes in energy use and emissions - changes are only modest in the near term, thru 2025
  • Allowance prices - projections relate to H.R. 2454 (see below)
  • Macroeconomic impact - net effects on GDP are likely to be negative because most benefits are expected in the second half of this century
  • Impact on employment - H.R. 2454 would cause a significant shift in the composition of employment
  • Distribution of costs - under H.R. 2454, the loss in purchasing power would be distributed to benefit lower-income households
CBO uses studies of H.R. 2454 (pdf, 1428pp), the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, for its range of estimates.

The Costs of Reducing Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Nov. 23, 2009
      Brief (pdf, 12pp/656kB)

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State disparities in education funding

While state funding for education has grown in the past 20 years, so have disparities in per-pupil revenues among the states, according to a recent paper from the Rockefeller Institute of Government. The report divides the states into four "spending quartiles" (high, medium-high, medium-low, and low) based on per-pupil spending during 1998-2000. The high and medium-high states tend to be in the Northeast or Midwest, are wealthier, and have lower child poverty.

In 2000, the gap between high- and low-spending states was about $1,825. After the 2001 recession, the gap grew as high-spending states experienced strong growth while the other groups lagged. By 2007, the gap between high- and low-spending groups expanded to $2,585 per pupil. The report concludes:
  • The current economic downturn could exacerbate interstate disparities in education revenues
  • The stimulus Stabilization Fund is more likely to widen these differences than reduce them

Spending Is Up, and So Are Interstate Disparities in States’
K-12 Education Revenues
, Nov. 4, 2009 (pdf, 7pp/552kB)


DC Marriage Initiative of 2009

AP (hosted by Google News) reported hours ago that the DC Board of Elections and Ethics today ruled the measure "to let voters decide whether to ban same-sex marriages in D.C. cannot go on the ballot because it would violate a city human rights law."




Living longer and the 3-legged stool

That the retirement of boomers and longer life expectancies will strain the traditional three-legged stool of retirement income--Social Security, pensions, and personal savings--is not news, but a report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) buttresses this projection with data on the demographics and budget issues of seniors. Relating to people 65 and older, the report covers:
  • Employment
  • Sources and amounts of income
  • Household income
  • Poverty status
  • Changes in income as people age
The report's conclusion is also reiterative:
With Social Security facing a financial shortfall and the number of private-sector pensions continuing to decline, it is likely that a relatively greater share of current workers' future retirement income will have to be financed from their own personal savings.

Income of Americans Aged 65 and Older, 1968 to 2008, RL33387 (pdf, 40pp/324kB), from Open CRS, Nov. 4, 2009

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States, pass or fail? Innovation in education

The Center for American Progress, "a think tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action," examines all 50 states and D.C. and their approaches to innovative improvement in education. Two years ago they similarly co-authored with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute the first Leaders and Laggards report examining school performance.
In this follow-up report, we turn our attention to the future, looking not at how states are performing today, but at what they are doing to prepare themselves for the challenges that lie ahead...We chose this focus because, regardless of current academic accomplishment in each state, we believe innovative educational practices are vital to laying the groundwork for continuous and transformational change...Put bluntly, we believe our education system needs to be reinvented.
The report focuses on eight areas:
  • School Management
  • Finance
  • Staffing: Hiring & Evaluation
  • Staffing: Removing Ineffective Teachers
  • Data
  • Technology
  • Pipeline to Postsecondary
  • State Reform Environment
As reported in Christian Science Monitor, "States like Nebraska, Hawaii, and Nevada, meanwhile, receive abysmal grades in at least a few areas and don't shine in any."

Leaders and Laggards A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Innovation:

Executive summary (pdf, 5pp/250kB)

Full report (pdf, 135pp/1.2MB)

Interactive map (html)

Individual state profiles (in pdf)

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Myths about opportunity

Americans have always believed that their country is unique in providing the opportunity to get ahead. Just combine hard work with a bit of talent and you'll climb the ladder—or so we've told ourselves for generations. But rising unemployment and financial turmoil are puncturing that self-image.
Isabel V. Sawhill and Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution and authors of Creating an Opportunity Society have come up with five myths about "our land of opportunity."

For starters, contrary to the belief that "Americans enjoy more economic opportunity than people in other countries," children born into a lower-income family in the Nordic countries and in the United Kingdom have a greater chance of forming a higher-income family as adults. Sawhill and Haskins counter the belief that poverty and inequality in the U.S. are driven by immigrant workers and offshoring of jobs with statistics on "a dramatic change in American family life"--the rise of children in single-parent families whose poverty rates are five time as high as two-parent households. The authors also discuss myths concerning generational upward mobility, public assistance, and cutting waste and abuse in the federal budget.

Five Myths About Our Land of Opportunity, Nov. 1, 2009

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