Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DBQ Questions

Document A
Brutus' main argument against the ratification of the Constitution and the proposed court system is the unchecked power of the judges and the judiciary branch. He says that it is an amount of power never seen in the judiciary before.

Document B
Hamilton calls the judiciary branch the "least dangerous" because it has the least ability to do harm to or to even annoy the other branches. The judiciary lacks force and will. It can only pass judgments and it even needs help from the executive branch for the enforcement of its judgments.

Document C
No law can be valid if is contradicts the Constitution. This gives complete freedom for laws as long as they are constitutional.

Document D
Hamilton asserts that the judges have the authority to judge the constitutionality of federal laws because they are the ones who hold the Constitution to be fundamental law and it is their job to interpret it.

Document E
Hamilton denies that the Constitution gives power to interpret the Constitution to the Supreme Court because no where in the Constitution does it specifically give that power to any body of government. Hamilton also states that the Constitution should be the standard by which laws are determined even though there isn't a designated body to judge the Constitutionality of the laws.

Document F
The Supreme Court has the power to, in all cases, rule on issues of law and equity, the laws of the United States, and the treaties made within the regulations that Congress sets.

Document G
This document supports Hamilton's argument because it recognizes that the judges are subject to the laws of the land and of the Constitution. Under those restrictions, they do not have many powers and are therefore the least dangerous branch.

Document H
Section 13 gives the court power to call forth anyone in the United States, even people holding office, before the court under a writ of mandamus.

Document I
Thomas Jefferson asserts that the sovereign states that created have the power to nullify any laws that contradict the Constitution.

Document J
This ruling says that the judicial branch has the responsibility to interpret the Constitution because it is thier job to judge what the law is. Because laws created by the legislature must adhere to the principles of the Constitution, the judicial branch must interpret the Constitution in order to determine the validity of the laws created by the legislature. Marshall identifies the "very essence of judicial duty" to be the job of deterimining, on a case by case basis, whether the law or the Constitution should determine the rules of the case.

Document K
Jefferson's reaction to the decision of Marbury vs. Madison was that the judicial branch was created to be equal to the other branches so that there would be checks and balances. They are an equal branch except for their ability to perscribe the rules for the governing of the counrty and the other branches. They are able to mold these rules to fit their fancy for the Constitution is "a mere thing of wax" which can be interpretted and twisted any number of ways. This opinion is drastically different from that of Hamilton's in Document B because Jefferson believes that the judiciary have the power to dictate how the country functions whereas Hamilton believes that it is the least dangerous branch of government without the will or power to affect laws or policies.

Should the Supreme Court Have the power to overturn unconstitutional federal laws?
The Supreme Court should have the power to overturn unconstitutional federal laws. The court is the interpretted of the Constitution in cases broght forth between different levels of government. If it doesn't have the power to exert its Constitutional-interpretting skills upon the creation of laws, no other branch or body of the government will. While it is the court's primary duty to uphold the Constitution, the legislative branch simply acts in what it feels is in the best interests of the country, without the hinderance of consideration for how their actions adhere to the Constitution. A separate body, the judicial branch, must check that the federal laws are in-line with the most basic principles and document of the United States.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Responses from Class

1. Video about Haymarket Riots

The right to assembly implies the right to strike. People are allowed to come together to talk or plan about whatever they want. They are also allowed to come together, acting upon that plan, to protest or to strike. The only time when these rights would be taken away is in the face of clear and present danger. It is the government's job to balance the peoples' right to free speech and assembly with the needs of the community.

2. Women's Rights

Is voting the basis of citizenship? Did suffrage make women equal?

Voting is the basis of citizenship because it is the privilege of citizens that makes them part of the democracy. Involvement in democracy is involvement in the government, and being able to be involved in the government makes you a citizen. Women may have gained equally in the eyes of the government, but they still were not seen as equal to their fellow citizens. Employers were still paying them less and husbands still felt superior, making them unwilling to stay home and take on house-making roles typically occupied by women.

The equal rights amendment was never ratified. Should it be? Should we have an amendment protecting women if there's one protecting African Americans?

A specific amendment protecting women's rights shouldn't be necessary; Americans should just know that all people (no matter of race or gender) are created equal. Seeing that wages are still not the same and that "glass ceilings" still exist, an amendment defending women's rights against other Americans might be necessary. I don't have any personal experience with this issue, so I'm not sure.

3. "I Have a Dream" Speech

Obviously a really great speech. It is interesting that Martin Luther King is speaking to two entities, only one of which is present: He is addressing the people gathered before him, seeking racial equality, but also the government or the nation, whom he urges to realize the fact that they owe rights to the African American population and the fact that his followers will not be satisfied or quieted if the government tries to silence and ignore them. Martin Luther King is speaking to the people who already believe in his cause. He is not speaking to convince anyone else, but only to strengthen his supporters in the resolve to pursue the dream of racial justice.

4. Huey Newton

Huey Newton is less idealistic and admits the more evil tendencies of Americans. He believes in confronting the issue and addressing the very true but embarassing, hidden, stereotypical thoughts that everyone has. We cannot end prejudice unless everyone admits that they are prejudiced.

5. H. Rap Brown

He is less cooperative. He identifies the problem to be the rest of the country. He is good at humorously comparing his followers' situations to common, simple situations that help people to realize the injustices directed at them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Observations from Class

1. What is the worth of a human being?

While we would hope that a human life is the most sacred thing on Earth, it sometimes seems like risking multiple peoples' lives is not worth the possibility of saving one. In the movie, "Black Hawk Down," 19 soldiers ended up losing their lives in a series of attempts to rescue possible survivors from a crashed helicopter. They were following their motto, "no man left behind," but in the effort to save pilots who were only possibly alive, many other soldiers were killed, humiliated by the natives, and one was kidnapped. In that circumstance at least, it would seem as though the possibility of saving one life was not worth risking all of the those other people. While even I normally always say that a human life is worth almost anything, we should all be honest about reality.

2. What are some minority groups?

Asian-American 2%, disabled Americans 5%, gay Americans 5%, African Americans 15%, American Indians 2%, Hispanic Americans 20%

* I couldn't find a good graph to include

3. How does America determine a person's worth?

Most people would like to think that "all men are created equal" in America, and that is how it would be in the ideal situation, but all people are not treated equally in reality. The country generally judges and values people based on wealth, status, and race or gender. You are worth more to society if you are a big businessman rather than a "lowly" factory worker. And the happiness and preservation of rich, influential people is worth more to the government than a low-income worker who might be part of a minority group. These actions are simply products of the government acting in its own self-interest. Morals and gaining supporters are the only reasons why the government would act in the interest of minority groups, but money, influence, and power are very enticing reasons for the government to act in the interest of large corporations and influential people.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Points of Interest in the News

Articles from the Washington Post

1. I was reading the travel section, and I found an article about planning a trip to Ireland. I know this is not technically news, but I've always wanted to go to Ireland, and it was reassuring to know how easy it is to plan a trip and how nice of a country it is to visit.

2. I read an opinion article entitled "This Will Not End Well." It was about Obama's plan in Afghanistan. Although I am not very familiar with the premise of this war, it was interesting to be reminded that many presidents, like Obama, do not meet their deadline for pulling out of country. The writer was obviously biased against our president, but it was interesting to hear how much evidence there is to suggest that Obama is not capable of following through on his promises. (Please note: these are not my opinions. In fact, I don't really have any opinions on this topic. This is just a response to a very opinionated article.)

3. "Fashion Advice That's Worth Taking Personally" is a lightly amusing, yet pointless article about the necessity of getting an unrelated, critical person to assess your style honestly, rather than your mother. I thought the topic was common knowledge, but I thought that the title may have been clever. I'm not sure if it was purposeful that the author chose the word "personally" to title an article about finding someone who is not invested in you personally, but I got a chuckle out of it. Also, they mention my favorite brand: J. Crew!!

4. I just found an article about a soldier who became a specialist in the Army Reserve. I'm not exactly sure what that is, but guess where he went to college. Washington and Lee!! Go Generals!!

5. "A Plowman Dressed as a Prince" is, believe it or not, an article written about a car. "Please welcome the 2010 Land Rover Range Rover Autobiography, arguably the most extravagant, most luxurious, most leather-bound, fine-wood-paneled, amenity-laden sport-utility vehicle ever made, which is why it's also one of the dumbest." This is an entertaining, well-written article about the absurdity of luxury vehicles whose purpose was originally to be able to go off-road. I was intrigued that Land Rovers were originally used as transportation vehicles in war, but were turned into luxury vehicles because there was money to be made off a market of extravagant, rich people. I just liked this article because it was different and because it featured a new character on the news scene: a car.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Being An American Essay

John D. Rockefeller said, “I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.” His philosophy eloquently summarizes how great it is to be an American, but also how much work it takes to keep our country great. It is only because of brave, sure-minded, righteous people that we enjoy the freedom and justice that characterizes America.

The Constitution is the most important American document in terms of providing the citizens with ways to be involved in the government and influence officials on what they consider fair and right. As Justice Felix Frankfurter said, “the history of liberty is largely the history of the observance of procedural safeguards.” The Constitution developed those procedural safeguards, such as the terms for “a speedy and public trial” and the proper limits on governmental power, which protect citizens from misguided officials misinterpreting and construing those rights and liberties so crucial to American life. It is the peoples’ responsibility to take advantage of the safeguards and processes defined in the Constitution which allow them control what the government decides is in their best interests. We are obligated, by the fact that we exercise the freedoms and protections defined in the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, to bring to the attention of the Court, the interpreter and protector of our rights, the situations in our communities which we feel violate our rights promised by the Constitution.

John Serrano was one such American who was willing to take on the responsibility of convincing the courts to intervene in his community and communities like his to correct an injustice he felt was denying his children their right to the American experience. Serrano filed a lawsuit against the California state treasurer because he noticed and was unsettled by the fact that the system of financing public schools in California created unequal opportunities depending on where you lived. The schools in the wealthier neighborhoods were better funded than those in the poorer neighborhoods because most financing for public schools comes from property taxes. Serrano was able to convince the California Supreme Court to take action to end the educational discrimination of children in public schools, and the changes in the way schools were financed in California led to changes in public school systems all across America. It is because of responsible people like John Serrano, who fight single-handedly against injustices that affect us all, that America will remain a free and just place.

Although not all of us are as dedicated and committed as John Serrano, there are still things that we can all do to fulfill our responsibility to our fellow citizens and our country. I am only seventeen and there is nothing in my carefree and young life that I find unjust or encroaching upon my liberties. I am confident, though, in the effectiveness and willingness of our government to deal with the issues citizens present that in the future, I will not hesitate to approach the government about any occurrences in my community, that might affect communities across the country, which I discover to contradict my perception of the freedoms promised by the Bill of Rights. All citizens should follow John Serrano's example and accept the responsibility for ensuring our own liberties. We need to learn from the past examples of citizens having the initiative and sense of responsibility to end the injustices being done to them and so that we can start changing our world today.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thomas Paine's Common Sense

Thomas Paine logically points out the troubles in society that come from having a king. His title, "Common Sense," suggests that all people should be able to identify and try to solve the problems caused by having kings, but because so many people are still dutifully allying themselves with their harmful king, one can assume that Paine's logic is not "common" sense. He oversimplifies, jumps to conclusions, exaggerates, and twists facts to serve his purpose of convincing people that kings are evil and deserve to be removed.

Many of his arguments must be oversimplified and forced if they sound so obvious, yet the public hasn't realized it yet. "For 'tis the Republican and not the Monarchial part of the Constitution of England which Englishmen glory in." It cannot be that simple or the English would have instituted a true republic already.

It is impressive that Paine, who was brought up to view kings and monarchies as the norm, is able to avoid the typical views of his society and realize the actual absurdity of kings. He is very good at recognizing underlying evils and at identifying contradictions. For example, Paine recites that "the most plausible plea...in favor of hereditary succession is, that it preserves a nation from civil wars" and pairs it with the fact that since the time of kings in England, there have been "no less than eight civil wars and nineteen rebellions."

Although all of Paine's predictions and speculations are logical and probable, the fact still remains that they are not certain truth. In order to strengthen his argument, he doesn't point out the possibility that his conclusions do not actual support his point. Paine doesn't hesitate, however, to highlight the uncertainty of other's predictions. The statement, "but this is mere presumption; the fate of war is uncertain, neither do the expressions mean anything," does not trust the assumer's ability to draw conclusions as much as he trusts himself. Paine conveniently leaves the possibility of a false conclusion out of his presumptions.

The class discussion helped me to be wary of Paine's assumptions. Mr. Quinn identified many instances where Paine exaggerated the good that comes from the absence of kings or twists things like the Bible to make it seem like it argued for the destruction of kings. Many of Paine's histories are probably products of historical revisionism, retold to support the argument.

It is ironic that Paine says "I would carefully avoid giving unnecessary offense" when he earlier called the king an "ass for a lion." It seems to me that Paine is unnecessarily offensive towards the king, either expressing a desire for revenge against injustices or a desire to be beheaded if the king ever got his hands on him.

I find it slightly sad and possibly false that Paine relates the size of a country to its friendliness. He says, "we forget the narrow limits of three hundred and sixty miles (the extent of England) and carry out our friendship on a larger scale." I'm not exactly sure what that's supposed to mean, but it seems like Paine is saying that a country's friendliness is proportional to its size. To disprove that assumption, I would like to offer Wakefield as an example, for it is so small compare to other schools yet it is the friendliest place I know.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Declaration of Independence

Was Thomas Jefferson influenced by John Locke?

Both agree that the people have the power to dissolve the government if it is not acting for the benefit of all of the people because its power is derived directly from the combined interests of all of its citizens.

Both say that people favored the protection of a government.

There is also the connection made to Locke's "State of Nature" with Jefferson's description of the "Laws of Nature."

These foundational ideas are so similar that it is highly possible that Jefferson did read Locke, but the ideas are so simple and logical that they might have just been two independent solutions to government by two unrelated, intelligent men.

One of the main differences is that Locke's system of government seems to rise naturally from the needs of people in the absence of any order. Jefferson's declaration is a form of government tailored to specifically incorporate knowledge from past experience with less effective forms of government.

There are also a few minor contradictions stemming mainly from word choice. Jefferson considers that being independent, governed states means being free. People would be free of British rule, but Locke would argue that there is freedom that is relinquished in the formation of a government.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

John Locke's Second Treatise, of Civil Government

John Locke has a generally negative view on the nature of man. The man in his examples, the exception to most other people, is content with his own freedom and belongings, and he never desires another man's property. The State of Nature could only be a successful way of organizing humans if all of mankind was as moral and independent as the man in Locke's examples. Locke doesn't even allow the possibility of a wholly good humankind though, saying that there will always be that envious and unjust person who creates the need for a punishment or justice system. Those citizens who are law-abiding and who are nervous about the vulnerability of their possessions, will seek solace in social organization. If government can be considered a system of justice and plan to organize people, then government is only necessary because there are bad people.

The fact that Locke describes law as something that is "plain and intelligible to all rational creatures" suggests that he wants all people to be involved in the government. Nothing should be above the citizens' comprehension for the people have a right to know what they gave up their freedom for. He does admit that there must be a higher, impartial power who will not be carried away by the petty, personal relations of the average man.

How were there laws in the State of Nature? Locke said every man knew it was wrong to harm another man or his possessions and that he only has the liberty to control his own. But in real nature, animals have no sense of property other than the resources they gained by killing their neighbor. Laws seem to contradict the State of Nature for the only true law in nature is survival of the fittest.

Although Locke doesn't name it this, his form of government seems to be a democracy where the power and approval for the government comes directly from the people. The people are also the sole judges of whether or not the government is acting in the best interests of the people.

This document was really confusing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Can't Believe I'm Blogging, Especially About Politics!

This is a tester entry of my political blog for my AP Government class.