Video Exercises


Watch the videos below and answer the questions that follow.

Congress makes laws that impact our daily lives in a variety of ways. It is vital to effective government for the citizens to monitor the actions of their elected officials. However, most citizens don’t pay attention to the details as the process is long and complex. In addition, there are a number of interest groups fighting for and against an issue. To most people, the work of Congress is viewed as inconsequential to their daily lives. However, the recent effort of private citizens to rally against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) demonstrates the power of the people. These two pieces of legislation would have provided controversial regulatory powers to the Department of Justice. Supporters in the film industry (MPAA) and recording industry (RIAA) viewed the proposed laws as vital protections. Opponents saw these measures as a form of censorship. This activity will help you appreciate why it is important to stay informed and get involved.

Clay Shirky on the influence of interest groups and the people on Anti-Piracy Legislation
From TED Talks Video Series

Clay Shirky, is a writer, consultant, and teacher on the social and economic effects of internet technologies. He holds a joint appointment at NYU as a Distinguished Writer in Residence and Assistant Professor of Art.

According to Shirky, what are the arguments put forth by those who support this legislation?
According to Shirky, what are the arguments of the people who oppose this legislation?
What is Shirky’s explanation for why supporters of this legislation are so influential over the process of making these laws?
1d. What does he argue that people who oppose the legislation can do to influence it?
After engaging this issue in greater depth, are you compelled to take action for or against the proposed legislation?

George John Mitchell is a former Democratic Party politician and U.S. senator from Maine who currently serves as the American special envoy to the Middle East for the Obama administration. He has served as chairman of the worldwide law firm DLA Piper and also as the chancellor of Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

What Will It Take to Close the Partisan Rift in Congress?
George Mitchell

Do you agree with Mitchell that the United States is, and will remain, divided politically? Why or why not?
How did the 2010 elections affect partisan balance in the Senate? How will the results of the 2010 election affect the job of the Senate majority leader, a position Mitchell mentions that he once held?

In addition to following the foibles of presidential candidates, political satire also extends to portrayals of Congress. Congressional gridlock and the legislative process have long been a target of satirical commentary. The following videos are examples of this brand of political humor.

Evan Bayh's Senate Retirement
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
June 2, 2010

What reasons does Evan Bayh give for not seeking another term as a U.S. senator? Why do you think John Oliver is so surprised at the reasons for Bayh’s retirement?
What do you think of Bayh’s reasons for retirement?

I Give Up 9/11 Responders Bill
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
August 4, 2010

In this video, Jon Stewart is frustrated with both Republicans and Democrats. What reasons does he have for being frustrated with each party?
Do you think this sketch is typical of congressional lawmaking? Why or why not?

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