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Kevin B.
Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen; tutor for 4 years
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Mandarin
TutorMe
Question:

How to ask yes/no questions with 吗/嗎(ma)

Kevin B.
Answer:

The question particle 吗/嗎(ma) is a simple way to form questions in Chinese. By placing 吗/嗎 (ma) at the end of a statement, you convert the sentence into a yes/no question (questions that could be answered with yes or no in English). Any sentence can be converted into a yes/no question with 吗/嗎 (ma). You can think of 吗/嗎 (ma) as being like a question mark you say out loud. The basic structure is:  Statement + 吗? Statement: 你是学生。/ 你是學生。 Nǐ shì xuésheng. You are a student. Yes/no 吗/嗎 question: 你是学生吗?/你是學生嗎? Nǐ shì xuésheng ma. Are you a student? To answer a 吗/嗎 question in the affirmative (yes), 是 is us used, while 不 (no) is used if the answer is negative. Example: A. 你是老师吗?/ 你是老師嗎? Nǐ shì lǎoshī ma? Are you a teacher? B. 是,我是老师。/ 是,我是老師。 Shì, wǒ shì lǎoshī. Yes, I am a teacher. C. 不,我不是老师。/ 不, 我不是老師。 Bù, wǒ búshì lǎoshī. No, I am not a teacher. D. 不,我是学生。/ 不, 我是學生。 Bù, wǒ shì xuésheng. No, I am a student.

US Government and Politics
TutorMe
Question:

Why do members of Congress delegate authority to party leaders? Describe some of the problems and challenges that arise with such delegation of power.

Kevin B.
Answer:

The delegation of authority by members of Congress to party leaders is done to allow parties to effectively act collectively in the pursuit of common party goals and desired policies in the legislature. Party members allocate a certain amount of power to their leaders to diminish the array of problems that arise in the collective desire to enact party policies. Legislators understand that pursuing shared party goals is ineffectively done individually and leads to collective actions problems, or dilemmas that arise in the attempt of a group to make decisions. Authority is delegated to leaders by party members to facilitate collective action, including assisting with coordination, reducing transaction costs, and limiting the free-rider problem. In the pursuit of preferred party goals, leaders use their given influence to coordinate the activities of party members and the legislative process. Party leaders are delegated the authority to engage in the difficult and complex task of coalition building among party members by compromising with and coordinating the actions of members to command their support in enacting sought party goals and policies. Leaders, particularly for the majority party, also have the ability to coordinate the legislative agenda by influencing the legislation that is considered by the legislature. By giving party leaders the authority to coordinate member actions and legislation, collective decisions and goals are more effectively reached. The power given to party leaders to assist with coordination simultaneously reduces transaction costs. Transaction costs encompass the time, effort, and resources required for collective undertakings, and transaction costs that are too high may prevent successful collective decisions by congressional members of a party. The normally high transaction costs of coordinating the actions of members of Congress is greatly reduced when party leaders are given adequate authority to carry out the task of coordinating members in the pursuit of party goals. Additionally, the potential problem of party members free riding is mitigated when power is given to leaders to effectively engage in coordination. The free rider problem occurs when individual members, knowing that the attainment of party goals does not rely heavily on the efforts of any particular legislator, choose not to provide their expected contribution to reach collective party objectives and may focus instead on personal interests such as reelection. The authority delegated to party leaders to coordinate party members’ activities helps to overcome the free rider problem as party leaders look out for and continuously try to ensure that members adhere to the collective interests of the party. Members of Congress necessarily delegate authority to party leaders to mitigate the dilemmas that appear in collectively acting to pursue party policies and goals. In delegating authority to party leaders, a significant problem that members of Congress encounter is the possibility of party leaders failing to act in accordance with the interests of the party as a whole. Party members entrust in their leaders a given amount of authority to act as agents on behalf of party members in their pursuit of policy goals that adhere to common party preferences. However, with this principal-agent relationship, which arises with the delegation of authority, there is always the possibility that the agent – in this case, party leaders – will use the power delegated to them to pursue their own interests instead of making appropriate decisions that reflect the desires of the principals, who in this case are party members. Party leaders, acting as agents, often know things that general party members do not and are able carry out certain activities that are not easily observable by party members. Consequently, a principle-agent problem arises in that there is the possibility and real threat of party leaders shirking and pursuing personal interests instead of serving the concerns of the party. Members of Congress have a number of ways of ensuring that their party leaders do not deviate from the collective interests and goals of their party. The main method for limiting the problem of party leaders straying from the interests of the party is by structuring the type of leadership the party desires in a way that allows it to pursue its interests. This is done by selecting certain members as party leaders who are most adept in helping the party attain its political goals. Party leaders are elected or reelected by the parties to their leadership posts at the start of each Congress and only after they have been carefully evaluated by members. Those who are selected to leadership positions are usually those who have been in Congress for a considerable amount of time and whose political strengths and weaknesses are known among members. As a result, members of Congress typically elect individuals to leadership positions knowing that they will serve the interests of the party. In addition to directly choosing party leaders, allocating more or less authority to party leaders certainly impacts their ability to lead members and influences their ability to potentially pursue interests that are different from the party’s. Members of Congress have multiple effective means for mitigating the problem of party leaders pursuing individual interests and ensuring that leaders are responsive to the goals of their party. The principal factor that determines how powerful members of Congress allow their party leaders to become is the extent to which there is party unity present. The more cohesive a party is, the more likely members of the party are willing to concentrate a significant amount of authority in the hands of party leaders and allow party leaders to play a greater role in policymaking. On the other hand, the lower the party unity the more likely power will not be centralized in party leadership but will be dispersed, and the increased likelihood that leadership will rely on bargaining to pursue party policy goals. The degree of party unity, in turn, is significantly determined by the level of partisan polarization and agreement among individuals comprising the electoral constituency of the party. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the presence of a highly centralized form of leadership in the House of Representatives coincided with a great degree of party unity evident by high levels of party voting. Before the revolt against Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon in 1910, there was a considerable degree of party unity as the Speaker wielded an extensive amount of authority to command majority party support in the pursuit of party goals through a combination of considerable formal powers from House rules that allowed him to control the legislative agenda and strong leverage as “party chief” to define party policies. While the concentration of power in the hands of party leaders had a noticeable impact on party unity, a large reason for the substantial party cohesiveness, and thus centralized party leadership, was due to highly polarized constituencies of the two parties during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Largely strong partisan polarization of the electorate during this time period had an important impact in causing higher levels of party voting and, subsequently, centralized leadership. After members of the House voted to take away much of the Speaker’s original authority in 1910, the lack of centralized leadership led to the emergence of factional divisions in the majority party and an overall decline in party unity. Decentralized leadership power in the post-Cannon House altered party leadership dramatically as party leaders went from commanding significant influence to having to bargain with members and committees to gain majority support on issues. Although the decentralization of party leadership had a definite effect on the decline of party unity, the diminishing of party cohesiveness, and thus the allocation of less authority to leadership, was considerably due to the external factor of less polarization and overall greater divisiveness in the electoral constituency of the majority party. This is clearly evident from the late 1930s to the 1940s when a large electoral coalition of supporters for the Democrats, initially united by the New Deal and the need for economic recovery after the Great Depression, became increasingly divisive with the emergence of new issues, which was reflected in the growing divisions in the Democratic majority party between the northern Democrats and more conservative southern Democrats. The degree to which a party is unified – which is greatly affected by the level of partisan polarization exhibited in that party’s electoral constituency – largely determines how much power party members delegate to their leaders. There are a variety of resources that party leaders have at their disposal to induce members of Congress to cooperate with their parties when they are tempted to act contrary to collective party preferences and policy goals. Party leaders frequently attempt to influence members either directly or indirectly by offering them incentives intended to affect their legislative voting behavior in a manner that is favorable to the leaders’ party. Party leaders may endeavor to directly influence legislators to vote in a desired manner on particular legislation. Direct influence entails an explicit exchange made between a party leader and a member of Congress in which usually individual members provide support for a particular party in return for receiving a specific incentive from the party leader that is of great interest to the member. Party leaders have control over a variety of resources to directly influence and induce individual members to cooperate with party leadership, including influence over valuable committee assignments, scheduling legislation in a manner that favors a member, access to desired pork-barrel legislation, and even assistance in raising campaign funds. Besides direct influences, party leaders may also seek to indirectly influence members to cooperate with and support their parties. In exercising indirect influence, party leaders strive to motivate members to behave in a way that favors the party, not by appealing to party members directly, by using implicit measures to induce legislators to provide support for their party. Party leaders might choose to persuade political actors outside of the legislature, including the president, lobbyists, campaign contributors, and party officials, to attempt to influence the behavior of members of Congress in favor of a party, or they may use the mass media to make public statements in the effort to pressure legislators. Leaders also exhibit a form of indirect influence when they assist with negotiations and bargaining between party members by providing incentives for members to cooperate with each other, form compromises, and uphold agreements that are made. Perhaps the most effective type of indirect influence on legislators is the ability of party leaders to control the legislative agenda. Party leaders are able to effectively influencing and framing the policy options available to be considered in legislation by affecting what bills reach the floor and the rules that accompany them to limit debate and amendment. The array of resources and methods for directly and indirectly influencing members of Congress allow party leaders to induce party members to support their respective party and act in a way that does not deviate from party policy goals. The amount of power given to party leaders differs considerably between the two houses of Congress, with a greater amount of authority delegated to party leaders in the House of Representatives than in the Senate. In comparing House and Senate leadership, the institutional roles of party leaders in the House are more powerful than those present in the Senate. The differences that exist between the House of Representatives and the Senate in regard to the degree of authority delegated to party leaders is largely explained by the differing levels of collective action problems, including coordination and transaction costs, that arise in each chamber. The greater necessity of mitigating collective action problems is fundamentally the reason why members of the House have delegated more authority to party leaders than have members of the Senate. Party leadership evolved in the House more quickly and with more authority delegated to party leaders than in the Senate because the size of the House – 435 members – demanded powerful leadership to handle the greater dilemmas associated with collective action. The Senate, on the other hand, has developed party leadership posts more gradually over time, and senators have never allocated party leaders an extensive amount of authority. With only 100 members, the Senate’s fairly small size in comparison to the House allows it to conduct legislative business with weaker party leaders, thus allowing greater autonomy for senators to pursue actions individually than members of the House. Members of the House of Representatives delegate more authority to party leaders than members of the Senate because the larger size of the House brings about more potential collective action problems for that chamber of Congress than the Senate.

US History
TutorMe
Question:

Why and how did the United States pursue an empire the late 1890s and early 20th-century? Describe the motives and attitudes—economic, political and racial—that led to the “splendid little war,” as the Spanish-American War was called. How did the war turn out for Cuba and the Philippines? Why did some Americans oppose this war? And how did the same racial attitudes that led to expansionism impact the lives of African-Americans during this period?

Kevin B.
Answer:

The Spanish American War was a conflict in 1898 between the United States and Spain that ended Spanish colonial rule in the Americas and resulted in US acquisition of territories in the western Pacific and Latin America. Prior to the war, the United States saw that the Spanish colonial government of Cuba was abusing and oppressing the Cuban people. At the same time, by the 1890s, the era was characterized by many great nations building empires, and there was a growing fear that if the US did not start taking colonies, it would risk being overpowered. This view was especially held by groups in the Republican party, who was looking for ways for the US to claim military and naval bases oversees and expand military and political power abroad. Equally important was American appetite for foreign resources. Americans wanted to have economic relations with Cuba, especially with respect to acquiring Cuban crops (such as sugar). These American interests and perspectives precipitated the war. The war originated with the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain, which began in 1895. Spain’s brutal measures to stop the rebellion were portrayed in US newspapers and American sympathy for Cuba and interest in intervention arose. On February 15, 1898, the battleship USS Maine was mysteriously sunk in Havana harbor. After the event, the US Congress issued resolutions declaring Cuba’s right to independence and demanded the withdrawal of Spanish forces from Cuba, while also authorizing the President to sue force to ensure Spanish withdrawal of forces. Spain declared war on the United States, followed by an American declaration for war. In a war that lasted just several weeks, the US came out victorious. The resulting Treaty of Paris signed in December 1898 forced Spain to renounce all claim to Cuba, ceded Guan and Puerto Rico the United States, and transferred sovereignty over the Philippines to the US. The idea of the US an imperial power with colonies was a tense debate, with many Democrats led by William Jennings Bryan arguing against the US becoming an imperialist nation. The African-American community, deeply connected to the oppressive plight of Cubans, supported the US efforts in the Spanish- American War, hoping that this would assist African-Americans in their own struggle for freedom and rights (of course, no advances in African-American rights were made in the aftermath of the war).

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