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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:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (great comic; great show) but he did a segment on civil forfeitures (which we touched on briefly today) a couple of weeks ago. It's a good primer on civil forfeitures if you knew nothing about it going in.

Supreme Court and Elections

Hi guys,
I decided to share this story because we are discussing the Court System this week. The Supreme Court has recently made several decisions that will impact the 2014 election. This has included a decision to allow Ohio to stop early voting a week early. The decision has been heavily criticized by Attorney General Eric Holder because this is a voting block often used by African American voters. Here is CNN's coverage of the story. The Supreme Court also ruled on North Carolina voting laws allowing the state to eliminate "same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting". Both Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor disagreed with this ruling because of its negative impact on African American voters. Here is Politico's covering of that story. Soon the Court may be asked to rule on Texas's ID voter law. Texas's law may prevent minorities from voting. However, in another recent case the Supreme Court upheld a decision in Wisconsin that would ban a voter ID law which could prevent minorities from voting. This is interesting to me because it shows how the Supreme Court can influence the Executive and Congress by helping determine which demographics may vote for the officials that hold those offices.

Law and Judiciary II

Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The Executive not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.
Reasons for increasing judicial power (Amar, pp. 216-218):

From Topkis's comments:
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.
SCOTUS biographies 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Presidency II

Congress checking the president:  NAIL:
  • Nominations
  • Appropriations
  • Investigations
  • Legislation
The presidency and national security:
Federalist 8: "It is of the nature of war to increase the executive at the expense of the legislative authority."

Democracy in America: "If executive power is weaker in America than in France, the reason for this lies perhaps more in circumstances than in the laws. It is generally in its relations with foreign powers that the executive power of a nation has the chance to display skill and strength. If the Union’s existence were constantly menaced, and if its great interests were continually interwoven with those of other powerful nations, one would see the prestige of the executive growing, because of what was expected from it and of what it did."
ISIS and Turkey, A NATO ally.  Would the NATO Treaty be a sufficient legal basis for military action?

The Executive Branch:  the Case of National Security

The Department of Defense
The Intelligence Community

Monday, October 6, 2014

Governor Jerry Brown Endorses Councilwoman Libby Schaaf in Hectic Mayoral Race

Being born and raised in Oakland, I have witnessed and experienced first-hand the problems that ail Oakland: high crime rates, poor infrastructure and schools, and a non-responsive government. That is why I made it a point of order over the summer to get involved in the Oakland Mayoral race. I had the distinct pleasure of interning for the  Libby Schaaf, who I first met Libby during a mayoral candidates' forum that my high school's debate club organized at Oakland's City Hall. With fifteen candidates vying for the position, I have to admit it was difficult making a final decision on who to support. However, given Libby's proven track record of enacting positive change in Oakland for the past thirty years. I ultimate chose to intern for her.

Despite recent polls indicating that Rebecca Kaplan, Jean Quan, and Libby Schaaf are leading the polls (in that order), it is still not clear who will emerge as the victor, especially with the weird politicking that the infamous Ranked Voter Choice system promotes. This voting system allows voters to rank up to three candidates when filling out their ballots. Although proponents of the voting system argue that it promotes positive campaigning among the candidates and saves a signification amount of money by eliminating run-off elections, opponents blame Ranked Voter Choice for the election of Mayor Jean Quan, who is not all that popular among the electorate. Here is more information on the history of Ranked Voter Choice in the East Bay.

This afternoon, however, a very familiar face will be visiting Libby Schaaf's headquarters to make a very important announcement. Former Mayor of Oakland and current California Governor Jerry Brown plans on endorsing Libby Schaaf. Despite the benefits that this provides for the Schaaf campaign, a KQED article examines whether Brown's endorsement will secure a win for Libby. In the past, Brown has endorsed Oakland candidates for mayor and city council (i.e. Don Perata and Ignacio de La Fuente, respectively) and neither won their elections. Regardless, with a significant portion of Oakland's electorate undecided on who to vote for, this election is still up in the air.

For those of you that are interested, here is a site that breaks down the race in a nutshell.