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About this Blog

During the semester, I shall post course material and students will comment on it. Students are also free to comment on any aspect of American politics, either current or historical. There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges. This blog is on the open Internet, so post nothing that you would not want a potential employer to see.

The course syllabus is at:

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Fascinating Juxtaposition of Ben Carson as an Odd Defying Inspiration and a Political Nut

I'm not sure how to go about posting to the blog, but I intended to post the following:

It's undeniable that Ben Carson is a brilliant. He's one of the best neurosurgeons in the world. He is brilliant. Additionally, his rise out of poverty with the power of education is incredibly inspiring. He also urges people to stop focusing on things like race and instead focus on people as individuals, saying in the first republican debate, "When I take someone to the operating room, I’m actually operating on the thing that makes them who they are. The skin doesn’t make them who they are. The hair doesn’t make them who they are. And it’s time for us to move beyond that." However, he also says things that are... questionable to say the least, for example what he said about AP US history, "'most people' who complete the course would then be 'ready to sign up for ISIS.'" Additionally, he recently said that islam conflicts with the constitution and that Americans should avoid electing a muslim president of the United States. From someone who opposes judgement of people based on race so strongly, this stance is notably hypocritical. 

Essentially, if you remove his politics (at least from my perspective) you've got a brilliant and inspirational man of both faith and science. However, if you listen to his politics alone, he's kind of seems like loon in some regards, especially in his opinions on islam.  

This article from Times talked about this dichotomy, and took the stance that Ben Carson's inspiration and brilliance should be maintained regardless of his political activity, because it's too valuable to lose:

Congress I

Writing Center:  Fiona,and Pippa have all taken this course.

Consequences of the Three-Fifths Clause.  From William Lee Miller, Arguing About Slavery:
Five of the first seven presidents were slaveholders, for thirty-two of the nation’s first thirty-six years forty of its first forty-eight, fifty of its first sixty four, the nation’s president was a slaveholder. The powerful office of Speaker of the House was held by a slaveholder for twenty-eight of the nation’s first thirty-five years. The president pro tem of the Senate was virtually always a slaveholder. The majority of the cabinet members and — very important — of justices of the Supreme Court were slaveholders. The slaveholding Chief Justice Roger Taney, appointed by slaveholding President Andrew Jackson to succeed the slaveholding John Marshall, would serve all the way through the decades before the war into the years of the Civil War itself; it would be a radical change of the kind slaveholders feared when in 1863, President Lincoln would appoint the anti-slavery politician Salmon P. Chase of Ohio to succeed Taney.

Federalist 47: The separation of powers is not absolute.

Federalist 48: The conclusion which I am warranted in drawing from these observations is, that a mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits of the several departments, is not a sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the same hands.

Federalist 57: Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor; not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscurity and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of the people of the United States. They are to be the same who exercise the right in every State of electing the corresponding branch of the legislature of the State. Who are to be the objects of popular choice? Every citizen whose merit may recommend him to the esteem and confidence of his country. No qualification of wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil profession is permitted to fetter the judgement or disappoint the inclination of the people.

Tocqueville (p. 200):  "When one enters the House of Representatives at Washington, one is struck by the vulgar demeanor of that great assembly."

Federalist 63: As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind? What bitter anguish would not the people of Athens have often escaped if their government had contained so provident a safeguard against the tyranny of their own passions? Popular liberty might then have escaped the indelible reproach of decreeing to the same citizens the hemlock on one day and statues on the next.


Congressional powers

Veneration of the Republic in Architecture

Reflection on Susan McWilliams’s Constitution Day Presentation

Last class’s discussion on the veneration of the Constitution caused me to recall Professor Susan McWilliams’s Constitution Day presentation on the importance of architecture to many of America’s founders. While promoting republic values was a very real concern, it was important that any promotion would be done non-intrusively on the individual’s daily life while still being ever present. She pointed out that many of the founding fathers were very concerned with “founding stones” rather than “foundational documents”(e.g. treaties). One of the ways they wanted to promote republic values (Professor McWilliams mentioned seven different ways exactly, mirroring the seven articles of the Constitution) was by using the architecture of public spaces to give the power of democracy a sense of divinity. Independence Hall (click here for images), for example, is based on the Christ Church (click here for images) and thereby showcases a reverence for democracy. In class we also discussed how it appears as if the Declaration of Independence is displayed on an altar. We usually refer to written works for an understanding of the founding pillars of the United States. However, the buildings designed by the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution also lend interesting interpretations and representations of the republic’s values.

The other arguments Professor McWilliams presented were also pretty interesting, and I’ll probably post something on them as they become relevant. Let me know if you want a copy of my notes from the presentation!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Democrats have the advantage: Illegal Immigrants & New U.S. Citizens

-Illegal Immigrants & New Citizens

-Obama's push to promote citizenship can also be seen through a campaign video he made.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Constitutionalism and the Federalist

Concerns of war, peace, and security

The House of Representatives will derive its powers from the people of America; and the people will be represented in the same proportion, and on the same principle, as they are in the legislature of a particular State. So far the government is NATIONAL, not FEDERAL. The Senate, on the other hand, will derive its powers from the States, as political and coequal societies; and these will be represented on the principle of equality in the Senate, as they now are in the existing Congress. So far the government is FEDERAL, not NATIONAL. The executive power will be derived from a very compound source. The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters. The votes allotted to them are in a compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and coequal societies, partly as unequal members of the same society. The eventual election, again, is to be made by that branch of the legislature which consists of the national representatives; but in this particular act they are to be thrown into the form of individual delegations, from so many distinct and coequal bodies politic. From this aspect of the government it appears to be of a mixed character, presenting at least as many FEDERAL as NATIONAL features.

The proposed Constitution, therefore, is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both. In its foundation it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of the government are drawn, it is partly federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and, finally, in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.
How many governments are there in the United States?
Read these provisions from an actual constitution. How would you appraise them?
ARTICLE 118. Citizens have the right to work, that is, are guaranteed the right to employment and payment for their work in accordance with its quantity and quality. ...

ARTICLE 119. Citizens have the right to rest and leisure. The right to rest and leisure is ensured by the reduction of the working day to seven hours for the overwhelming majority of the workers, the institution of annual vacations with full pay for workers and employees and the provision of a wide network of sanatoria, rest homes and clubs for the accommodation of the working people.

ARTICLE 120. Citizens have the right to maintenance in old age and also in case of sickness or loss of capacity to work. This right is ensured by the extensive development of social insurance of workers and employees at state expense, free medical service for the working people and the provision of a wide network of health resorts for the use of the working people.

ARTICLE 121. Citizens have the right to education. This right is ensured by universal, compulsory elementary education; by education, including higher education, being free of charge; by the system of state stipends for the overwhelming majority of students in the universities and colleges; by instruction in schools being conducted in the native language...

ARTICLE 122. Women are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life. The possibility of exercising these rights is ensured to women by granting them an equal right with men to work, payment for work, rest and leisure, social insurance and education, and by state protection of the interests of mother and child, prematernity and maternity leave with full pay, and the provision of a wide network of maternity homes, nurseries and kindergartens.

ARTICLE 123. Equality of rights of citizens irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life, is an indefeasible law. Any direct or indirect restriction of the rights of, or, conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect privileges for, citizens on account of their race or
nationality, as well as any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law.

ARTICLE 124. In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church. ...

ARTICLE 128. The inviolability of the homes of citizens and privacy of correspondence are protected by law.

Second Essay, Fall 2015

I have divided the class into four work groups of four or five students each. Every group will assign each of its research questions to one of its members. Within each group, every student will ask another to review her or his paper. The reviewer’s name should appear on the paper, along with that of the author.
  • Essays should be double‑spaced and no more than four pages long. (Use twelve-point type.) I will not read past the fourth page.
  • Use secondary sources to establish context. Use primary sources for the bulk of your research. Seek information in scholarly journals and government publications. Wherever possible, rely on hard data such as election returns and polling results. Do not just rely on news media accounts, which may be inaccurate.
  • Cite your sources, using proper Turabian/Chicago format.
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you.
  • Submit essays to the Sakai dropbox by 11:59 PM on Friday, October 16. Papers will drop a gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a letter grade after that. I will grant no extensions except for illness or emergency.
Burton, Elliott, Fraser, Park

  • Why did the Senate reject the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Does it have a chance at a comeback?
  • Why did President Obama delay the ACA employer mandate? Did he have the legal authority to do so? Explain the controversy.
  • Analyze Reid's use of the "nuclear option" to secure approval of federal judges. Explain the political costs and benefits of the move.
  • On June 15, 2011, The New York Times reported: "The White House, pushing hard against criticism in Congress over the deepening air war in Libya, asserted Wednesday that President Obama had the authority to continue the military campaign without Congressional approval because American involvement fell short of full-blown hostilities."  Explain the issue.  Did the president prevail?  What were the consequences?
Brown, Fedorochko, Forest, Miller, Wiltshire-Gordon
  • Why did Schiff introduce H.J.Res. 58 (114th Congress)?  What are the arguments for and against the measure?  What are its prospects for passage?
  • Why did Nixon propose a guaranteed income?  What happened to his proposal?
  • Why and how did the House ban earmarks?  What are the arguments for and against earmarks?
  • What happened to S. 987 (113th Congress)?  Explain the politics of the issue, and the arguments for and against the measure.
  • Explain what happened to Kucinich's efforts to impeach President George W. Bush.

Abraham, Kessler, Lempres, Mann, Youn
Becker, Lopata, Nikolaou, Pineda, Wong, 

  • The president has asked Congress for an AUMF against ISIL.  Explain what happened to the request and why.
  • Justice Scalia has written: "The Court holds that when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says `Exchange established by the State' it means `Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government.' That is of course quite absurd, and the Court’s 21 pages of explanation make it no less so." Explain.  How would you evaluate his argument?
  • Explain the passage of HR 2048 (114th Congress).  In your answer, consider the role of partisanship and changing attitudes toward privacy.
  • Why did the Kyoto Protocol never win Senate approval?
  • Why did Dan Rostenkowski go to prison? Explain the background of the case.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Constitutionalism I

Antifederalist 1: "This government is to possess absolute and uncontroulable power, legislative, executive and judicial ..."

Ron Chernow's biography undercuts the notion that Alexander Hamilton was a well-born defender of privilege. Here is a passage summing up what the born-out-of-wedlock Hamilton and his brother faced in their youth:
Let us pause briefly to tally the grim catalog of disasters that had befallen these two boys between 1765 and 1769: their father had vanished, their mother had died, their cousin and supposed protector had committed bloody suicide, and their aunt, uncle, and grandmother had all died. James, 16, and Alexander, 14, were now left alone, largely friendless and penniless. At every step in their rootless, topsy-turvy existence, they had been surrounded by failed, broken, embittered people. Their short lives had been shadowed by a stupefying sequence of bankruptcies, marital separations, deaths, scandals, and disinheritance. Such repeated shocks must have stripped Alexander Hamilton of any sense that life was fair, that he existed in a benign universe, or that he could ever count on help from anyone. That this abominable childhood produced such a strong, productive, self-reliant human being -- that this fatherless adolescent could have ended up a founding father of a country he had not yet even seen -- seems little short of miraculous.
The story set to music:


Federalist 1:

[A]dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

The same point, in language that you will recognize.

Concerns of war, peace, and security
Controlling power
Federalist v. Anti-Federalist