Search This Blog

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:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Coming Apart I, 2017

Prologue: November 21, 1963

November 22

Tocqueville (p. 458) on the 19th century:
In times of freedom and enlightened democracy there is nothing to  separate men from one another or to keep them in their place. They  rise or fall extraordinarily quickly. They are so close to each other  that men of different classes are continually meeting. Every day  they mix and exchange ideas, imitating and emulating one another. So the people get many ideas, conceptions, and desires which they never would have had if distinctions of rank had been fixed and society static.
Douglas Rae on early 20th century New Haven, rebutting the idea of strict residential separation:
New Haven in the Frank Rice era around 1910 was nothing of the sort. People at the bottom and the top of the workforce usually lived in town, close to their places of work, and therefore fairly close to one another. (p. 115)
Allowing for the vagaries of historical data, we can conclude with certainty that a majority of civic organizations were headed by regular folks for whom high office was not a routine expectation in life. (p. 166)
Michael D'Antonio on Trump's father:
In his prime, Fred Trump was among the richest men in America, yet he lived among doctors, lawyers, and accountants. He rarely traveled, except for vacations in Florida, and was careful about expenses. In 1955, when Fortune published a study on the subject, this far-from-ostentatious life was the norm for top executives across the nation, who remembered the the excesses of the Roaring Twenties and refused to repeat them. Don Mitchell, president of Sylvania Electric, lived in an eleven-room house in Summit, New Jersey, and commuted by train to Manhattan. D. A. Hulcy, president of Lone Star Gas, counted a small lakeside cottage as his main indulgence.
Census data on educational attainment:

Figure 1: Population Age 25 and over by Educational Attainment: 1940-2016

The increasing economic importance of education

Education, inequality, and the college sorting machine

Some colleges (yes, including CMC) have more students from the top one percent than the bottom 60 percent.

Jonathan Wai writes at Quartz: 
The following data in the graph below are taken from another research paper which can be found here (pdf). I looked at the educational backgrounds of US Fortune 500 CEOs, federal judges, senators, House members, attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos (which included CEOs, journalists, academics, and people in government and policy), and the most powerful men and women according to Forbes. The blue bars indicate the elite school percentage (undergraduate or graduate school). The red bars indicate the graduate school percentage not included in the elite category. The green bars indicate those who graduated from college independent of the other two categories. And the NR/NC category indicates people who did not report or had no college.
elites and school

One might argue that the Fortune 500 CEO elite school percentage of roughly 38% is not very high. But this value should be taken in the broader context. Note the purple bars, which show that nearly everyone in the US elite graduated from college. This flatly contradicts the stories glamorizing college dropouts—such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg—who both were accepted by and attended Harvard. Next, it’s interesting to note that 44.8% of billionaires, 55.9% of powerful women, 63.7% of Davos attendees, and 85.2% of powerful men attended elite schools. Finally, 55.6% of the journalists who attended Davos went to elite schools. I conducted my own analysis of the data on The New Republic masthead, suggesting that roughly 64.2% attended elite schools. Data on the New York Times was not systematically available, but it is unlikely to be much different, and may even be more select given its reputation.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bob Menendez trial ends in mistrial after jury deadlocks

The federal corruption trial of New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez ended in a mistrial Thursday after the jury reported it is hopelessly deadlocked.
The mistrial is a blow to the Justice Department, which has been investigating Menendez for nearly five years, but leaves the senator without the clear vindication he had hoped for in court.

(cries in video at 50 seconds)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights 2017

Seneca Falls

Civil War Amendments
  • Amendment XIII Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. 
  • Amendment XIV Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
  • Amendment XV Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Selma the movie:  vs. the actual conversation between LBJ and MLK

From Birmingham Jail:
YOU express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask, "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes an "I - it" relationship for the "I - thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only politically, economically, and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn't segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? So I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court because it is morally right, and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.

Let us turn to a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow, and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or creating because it did not have the unhampered right to vote. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up the segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout the state of Alabama all types of conniving methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties without a single Negro registered to vote, despite the fact that the Negroes constitute a majority of the population. Can any law set up in such a state be considered democratically structured?

These are just a few examples of unjust and just laws. There are some instances when a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens  the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil

We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws.
Gender, Disability, Sexuality

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are." 
-Martin Luther King Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

What does this paragraph from the reading imply about the separation of church and state? Currently, it is somewhat taboo for a preacher to advocate for a political candidate during a sermon. King seems to hold an entirely different stance. Should modern churches organize or take part in political movements? Or does the separation of church from state also imply a separation of politics from the pulpit?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Civil Liberties 2017

Oral Argument - clip starts at about 7:30:

Edwards v. Aguillard (start around 26:00)

From Topkis's comments -- an example of the value of slow reading:

Now, this bill was of course drafted by a theologian, or somebody versed in apologetics.
There's an amusing bit of evidence on that subject in the very language of the bill.
The bill keeps using... the Act keeps using the term "evidences" in the plural.
We lawyers never speak of "evidences" in the plural. We speak of "evidence", the singular.
And I got nagged by it, and I looked it up the other day.
And of course the only dictionary reference to "evidences" is to Christian apologetics: the evidences for Christianity. This is a matter of theological disputation.
Tocqueville (p. 267): "Nothing could be more obscure and out of reach of the common man than a law founded on precedent…. A French lawyer is just a man of learning, but an English or an American one is somewhat like the Egyptian priests, being, as they were, the only interpreters of an occult science."

In this case, Lemon v. Kurtzman

 A Hamilton passage that did not make it into the musical:
I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?...This may serve as a specimen of the numerous handles which would be given to the doctrine of constructive powers, by the indulgence of an injudicious zeal for bills of rights.
The Due Process Clause and Selective Incorporation

The Exclusionary Rule

The Bill of Rights
  • Amendment I  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 
  • Amendment II A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear armsshall not be infringed.
  • Amendment III No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. 
  • Amendment IV  The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  • Amendment V  No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. 
  • Amendment VI  In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
  • Amendment VII  In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
  • Amendment VIII Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
  • Amendment IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
  • Amendment X  The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The First Amendment - What is truly protected?

The First Amendment doesn't guarantee you the rights you think it does -Debunking common First Amendment arguments  

What Does Free Speech Mean? - Examples of things that are, and 
are not, protected by Free Speech (along with previous SCOTUS cases)