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OpenLearn Live: 8th November 2016

Updated Tuesday, 8th November 2016

Lincoln's balancing running-mate didn't cover himself in glory in the top job; why peace deals don't always deliver for queer people; can government make you happy? Learning and research from across the day.

OpenLearn Live surveys the candidates from learning and research around the web, then casts its vote for the best. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, we caught up with Theresa May in India and asked why schools are calling in the bomb squad

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Grierson Awards success

Exciting news from last night's Grierson Awards for documentaries, where two OU coproductions won prizes.

The Hunt picked up Best Natural History Documentary, for the episode The Hardest Challenge:

And in the Best Documentary on A Contemporary Theme (Domestic) category, How To Die - Simon's Choice took the award.

See the full list of Grierson Winners

Read more about The Hunt

Read more about How To Die

Can the government make us happy?

With quite a heavy focus on politics today, here's a question: can a government make you happier - and is that the sort of thing a government ought to be trying to do anyway? The Insitute for Fiscal Studies has a few thoughts:

Watch: Michael Sandel, Jeremy Bentham, happiness and justice

Why peace deals don't always bring hope for LGBT+ people

While the world will often cheer a peace deal, the agreements to end wars often exclude queer people from the terms. Writing at The Conversation, John Nagle explains how that can be a major problem:

Peace processes impact on LGBTQI populations in numerous forms that are rarely acknowledged. A key factor is how contemporary civil war is understood and dealt with by policymakers. Civil war is seen to be the result of intractable conflicts between ethnic, religious or nationalist groups. Peace, according to this logic, entails guaranteeing representation for these groups in political institutions. In Lebanon, for example, a 50/50 Christian/Muslim quota system is applied for parliamentary seats and public jobs. A similar system is mooted for Syria.

These peace pacts are widely criticised for entrenching sectarianism and excluding non-ethnic groups. A growing body of scholars and policymakers note, for example, how peace processes sideline gender equality. As a result, a number of initiatives have been created to promote gender equality after conflict. The UN Security Council’s Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security is a landmark proposal, affirming the importance of women’s equal participation in the promotion of peace. Some agreements reserve parliamentary seats for women.

A small number of agreements mention LGBTQI issues. In South Africa’s transition from apartheid, a prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation was written into the equality clause of the constitution. Nepal’s postwar constitution provides formal legal safeguards and Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement ensures that public authorities are legally obliged to promote good practice for sexual minority groups and to involve them in consultation processes.

Read the full article at The Conversation: Peace deals are supposed to bring harmony – but too often they ignore sexual minority groups

More from OpenLearn on queer politics

The polls are open

It seems like so long ago that we were wondering if Marco Rubio or Bernie Sanders would make it onto their parties' ticket - but finally, Americans are voting in the US Presidential elections. Except those who have already voted. And there's a lot of those, as the New York Times explains:

More states are offering early voting, Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida, said. “Once a state adopts early voting, more people vote early as a part of their election regimen,” he said.

The modern resurgence of early voting can be traced to 1980, when California lifted a requirement that voters must have an excuse to vote early. Other states in the West followed. In 1996, Southern states like Florida, Tennessee and Texas began to allow in-person early voting in special satellite polling locations.

Another landmark year in early voting was 2001, when a legal challenge was brought against Oregon’s early voting laws. The decision in that case, Voting Integrity Project v. Keisling, set a precedent mandating that early voting should be allowed, as long as votes were not officially counted before Election Day.

Read at the New York Times: Voting Early, and in Droves: Over 22 Million Ballots Are Already In

The FT is spending polling day trying out different sorts of electoral maps:

It is a well-known problem: Because the US population is not distributed evenly, states with large areas will feature disproportionately on geographical maps, even though they are sparsely populated and have few electoral votes. Montana’s area is 15 times that of Vermont’s, but they have the same number of electoral votes. The effect is a political bias: Since large rural areas tend to vote Republican, the map shows a far greater proportion of red than the election results warrant.

Read at the FT: The search for a better US election map

While you wait for the results, you can catch up on the last couple of contributions to our 2016 US election collection. First - what should Europeans expect from the new President?

Europeans have generally oscillated between incredulity, anxiety, consternation and apprehension when commenting on the consequences of the election. There has been a steady stream of puzzled comments on American television from both elite policymakers and locals interviewed on the streets of Europe’s major capitals. Not surprisingly, an oft-asked question is ‘how could Americans elect Donald Trump?’ It is a reasonable question. But, Americans ask, how could the British Choose Brexit? Or how could the Italians have chosen Berlusconi? Or the French choose….? That is the trouble with democracy – everyone gets a vote.

Naturally, Europe’s leaders see fundamental differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Europeans historically favour Democrats, and this election is no exception. Indeed, despite his occasional missteps and occasional reticence to be more engaged in European affairs, a Pew survey reports that President Obama continues to enjoy a very high degree of popularity in Europe.

And that popularity is reflected in views toward US policy. As the authors note, “Across the 10 EU nations polled, a median of 77% have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs, including more than eight-in-ten in Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and France.” A comparable degree of confidence largely, although not quite as extensively, extends to Hillary Clinton. Seventy-seven percent of respondents expressed confidence in Obama this summer (he has always scored above 70% on this measure) while 59% said the same about Clinton.

Read What does the US election mean for Europe?

And from Florida... they're just wishing for it to be done with, already:

A Democratic Party political organiser who has been parachuted into St. Pete to help with the final week’s efforts, explained the calculations to me. The Democrats are cautiously confident that Clinton will win the top of the ticket race – though as she admitted, nobody working on an election should ever be wholly confident again post-Brexit. The campaign team are at least resigned to the fact that there isn’t much more they can do to bolster Clinton’s personal support in Florida. Minds are largely made up. They do, however, feel they can still make a real difference in tight down-ballot races, especially for the Senate.

Read Florida just wants it over

Bad Presidents: Andrew Johnson

Today, Americans will be waiting to discover who has been selected as their new President, and allowing themselves a small sigh of relief that the long, long 2016 Presidential Campaign will be at an end. To mark the election, this week we're starting up every day focusing on one of the men generally agreed to have been terrible Presidents. Yesterday, we kicked off with William Henry Harrison. Today, it's the fourth-worst President in American history (at time of writing), Andrew Johnson.

Andrew Johnson Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: Matthew Brady / Library Of Congress Andrew Johnson

If Harrison is on the list because he died, and didn't have the chance to do anything wonderful, Johnson is the opposite: he only became President because another one died.

Abraham Lincoln (who, by the amalgamation of polls we're using, comes out top of the list of Presidents) had first won the Presidency with Hannibal Hamlin at his side. Facing re-election in 1864, with the Civil War still being fought, Lincoln chose to broaden his appeal by bringing in Johnson onto his ticket. Johnson was a War Democrat - as the name implies, less keen on suing for peace and balanced Lincoln's more emolient approach. The idea worked and helped ensure Lincoln's victory, but there was a problem.

Because a balanced ticket doesn't work if one side of the scales is suddenly voided. President and Vice President met just once - on Good Friday, 14th April, 1865. In this meeting, characteristically, Johnson urged that traitors would not be treated too gently by Lincoln.

That evening, Lincoln was shot. He died the following morning. Johnson, too, had been targeted for death but his would-be assassin George Atzerodt lost his nerve. So the White House passed to the control of a man less committed to smoothing the divides of a country that was at war with itself just as the war came to an end.

There was much that was terrible about Johnson's time in power, and it can probably be summed up by his own words:

"This is a country for white menand as long as I am president, it shall be a government for white men."

He opposed the Freedman's Bureau Bill, which created a federal body to help emancipated slaves as they transitioned to their new lives.

He opposed the 1866 Civil Rights Act, whcih extended the rights enjoyed solely by whites to all.

And the 14th Ammendment? Yes, he stood against that, too, and the idea of equal protection by the law.

Fortunately, he couldn't prevent any of those things from happening, but taking a high-profie stand against them didn't make for a popular leader.

Worse, his opposition and attempts to frustrate a fair settlement for freed slaves - in effect, trying to reset the South to how it was before the war as far as he could - meant that Reconstruction was doomed to fail.

The Miller Center's life of Johnson sees his legacy as being all about the man he wasn't:

Historians naturally wonder what might have happened had Lincoln, a genius at political compromise and perhaps the most effective leader to ever serve as President, lived. Would African Americans have obtained more effective guarantees of their civil rights? Would Lincoln have better completed what one historian calls the "unfinished revolution" in racial justice and equality begun by the Civil War? Almost all historians believe that the outcome would have been far different under Lincoln's leadership.

Congress was unimpressed with Johnson's attempts to derail Reconstruction, and attempted to reduce his power with the 1867 Tenure of Office Act. This would limit Johnson's power to appoint officials.

Johnson didn't take this well, and so tried to test its legitimacy by suspending Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in favour of General Ulysses S. Grant. As if that wasn't enough, Johnson ignored the Army Appropriations Act by giving hardline generals heightened roles in the South.

The House of Representatives set in process articles of impeachment. Taken to trial, those seeking to convict Johnson fell one vote short of the required two-thirds neccesary to carry an impeachment.

Although he avoided being removed from office by just one vote, this didn't make Johnson any less belicose. The remainder of his Presidency was marked by obstinate attempts to turn back the tide of the new world.

He may have just about convinced the House that he was a good enough president. History, though, was always going to take more convincing.

Study history with the OU

See our coverage of the 2016 election

More on the American Civil War





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