December 28, 2006

Elec. College

Please read this article about the electoral college, and analyze as per the utility/downside of the institution. Please have this done by 4:30 this afternoon. Please limit your work to 15,000 words.

December 27, 2006

Radio Ads - McRoberts for Iowa

 During my Legislative race, we were able to really build some bridges with a few carefully selected radio ads. We've talked about them in class, but here are the three most successful. I'll leave these up for a few days - please listen to them, and be critical!

 Response to Attack

President Ford Questions

Please take 60/90 minutes, and prepare a brief – no more that 750 word – document developing your understanding of the life and Presidency of Gerald R. Ford.

Through which process did Ford become Vice President?
How did the country react to Ford’s assumption of office?
How did the country react to Ford’s pardon of President Nixon?
What policy difficulties did Ford face in the White House (Clue – inflation, the Mayaguez, Vietnam amnesty).
How close did Ford come to reelection?

Post Presidency:

As of November, 2006, President Ford became the oldest former President in US History; Presidents such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan also had very long lives after leaving office. Please research and describe two aspects of the Ford Post-Presidency – 1) the potential ‘co-presidency’ with future President Reagan, and 2) his relationship with Former President Carter.

Please write this as a narrative, and not as a simple listing of facts. Do not feel obliged to follow MLA rules, but please make sure I can see where you found your information. I want to get a ‘feel’ for your own thoughts, in addition to the questions asked.

President Ford

Comments about President Ford are here.
CNN Coverage of President Ford
MSNBC Coverage and Photo Album
Here is a link to an article I wrote in 2003 about President Ford

December 26, 2006

Am. Gov't - The Supreme Court

Class, per our discussion on Monday, I would like to re-visit our talk, starting with the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. What do we mean, when addressing the contrasting values of the 1st Amendment? Specifically, what is the tension between the Constitutional protection of religious practice, versus the prohibition of endorsement? How does this tension play itself out in Congress and in the Courts?

First, let us recognize that although the term ‘Separation of Church and State’ is widely used, that this term is not a part of the Constitution. That term was a shorthand used by several of the framers, to explain the relationship of the maturing US Government to religious bodies in the country. The Framers using this term were well acquainted with the possibility of tension between the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause. And that tension – like that between separate branches of government – would become essential for the protection of liberty, and indeed, for religion.

Let us read the relevant text of the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

We must first remember, that when “Congress” is mentioned, we have come to define that term as any government action – such as a City Council or State. Second, we must get to the heart of it. What, in plain English, do these clauses mean? What do we know, first of all? We can be assured that Congress cannot create a “Church of the United States”, and we can be assured that the doors to your Church, Synagogue, or Mosque, will not be nailed shut because of the whim of the Governor, Member of Congress, or the President. With that as our starting point, let us continue.

We addressed two examples – the first, a tax exempt status of a church; the second, the prohibition of the drug peyote by members of a religious group. Reading the First Amendment – where do these regulations fit, understanding that both sets of regulations are allowed.

Let’s dig a bit deeper. As we know, the Supreme Court decides what standards to apply to state action. Currently, the Supreme Court uses a standard based upon a case called Lemon v. Kurtzman, a case involving direct subsidy for religious school. In Lemon, the parent of a child attending a public school sued to prevent the state from spending taxpayer funds to pay for school costs, and to reimburse parochial schools for routine expenses. The Court, in responding to Lemon’s claim (Kurtzman was the Superintendent), settled on the decision that the subsidy was indeed unconstitutional.

Here is the test the Court established for Legislation referencing religion:

1.The government's action must have a legitimate secular purpose;
2. The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
3. The government's action must not result in an "excessive entanglement" with religion

What does that mean, in plain English? What sort of practices and customs can the state allow, or forbid? Consider the following examples of the relevant 1) state action and 2) religious activity in question.

A Seventh-Day Adventist is fired from her job, for refusing to work on Saturdays, and is subsequently denied unemployment benefits (Sherbert v. Verner)

Amish schoolchildren are taken out of school by their parents, in contrast to the state’s requirement of K-12 education (Wisconsin v. Yoder)

A person uses Peyote as part of a traditional religious practice, and is then fired for drug use, and unemployment benefits are denied (Employment Division v. Smith)

A superintendent allows a school prayer before a football game (Doe v. Santa Fe)

A young girl is expelled from school for wearing a Muslim head scarf, in contrast to the school’s ban on hats/headgear in class

In those four instances, religious behavior is ‘entangled’ with regulation. Although the standards evolve – for instance, the ruling in Sherbert was nullified to some degree by Smith, the result for the Plaintiff was the same – the tenor of the Court has been one of a ‘bridge’ between religion and irreligion, so to speak. Each of these cases involved either a monetary interest – Lemon – a state benefit – Sherbert, Smith, or a regulation – Yoder and case the involving the headscarf. But what about an instance where state involvement is less pronounced – such as a reading the Pledge of Allegiance?

Read on. Knowing what we know about the still-enforced Lemon test, please give me a basic outline as to the state action, and the likely response taken by the courts to that action. Once you are finished with that, please Google the case names, and compare your initial reactions to the holdings of the Court. What stands out for you, both as to the nature of the 1st Amendment, but also the changing nature of the Court?

Am. Gov't - Current Events and Supreme Court Notes

Here's news -
Saddam Hussein -
Sen. John McCain -
Chief Justice John Roberts -
Sens. Obama and Clinton -

Please spend an extra amount of time reading the article about Chief Justice Roberts' management of the Court. As we mentioned, the Supreme Court may be the least understood branch of Government. You know there are nine members, appointed by a President, and that they serve, for all intents and purposes, for life. But what is this Court made of, other than a group of Judges? How do they decide?

This article on John Roberts is intriguing; the Chief Justice of the United States occupies a unique role. He is not the leader of the Court per se - the Court has a collective personality. The Chief is the director of the federal judiciary, and considered the most 'senior' Justice, regardless of tenure. The Chief, when part of a majority opinion, has the authority to assign authorship of the opinion - sometimes, to himself. It is not unheard of, for a Chief to change his vote on an issue, just to be able to write a very narrow decision on an issue.

As emphasized in Marbury v. Madison, the Court decides what the law means. That is to say nine men and women decide what the law is. Therefore, personalities must play a role. Let us dig a little deeper. Please read up on the following justices:

Thurgood Marshall
Byron White
Chief Justice Earl Warren
Chief Justice William Rehnquist
Chief Justice John Roberts
Sandra Day O'Connor
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
John Paul Stevens

This is modern example of just a few of the Justices. We will address each member's specific philosophy before the end of the term.

December 18, 2006

White Collar Crime

Please study your pre-test and be sure to focus on governmental crime as well - that will do you just fine as you cram for the rest of the day - thank you. Pete

December 17, 2006

Criminal Evidence Study Guide

Class, simply review the chapters/pages we identified in class together;
that's going to be your best bet for the Monday exam. Please call or
email with any specific questions -- GOOD LUCK!

December 10, 2006

IR - Parliament

IR Class –
Here is a link to a report from 1990, about Margaret Thatcher’s ouster. This stuff is very interesting. Please think a moment about how foreign this is compared to our own methods. Compare Thatcher’s resignation with President Nixon’s resignation.

The link to what led up to the resignation is here.

The link to the resignation report is here.


December 08, 2006

IR Exam Review Fall 06

IR Exam Review, Fall 2006

  • Collective Security, Sovereignty and the Roots of these concepts. This is hugely important, given the level of scrutiny that we put upon WWI and NATO in our class. Remember – key concepts such as the US’ rejection of the League of Nations, the outbreak of WWI, excessive entanglements – all of these issues we discussed are as a result of this 400 year old Westphalian doctrine

  • Levels of Analysis  - be prepared to explain a fact pattern. For instance, you may have an event from history – details and all – and you will want to analyze the event. Be sure and read each sentence carefully; you will want to spend as much time reading as you need to write a solid response.

  • Parliamentary/Comparative Systems – refresh your recollection as to key terms/structures. Be on the lookout for specifically different methods of governing – i.e., cabinet, selection of a leader/Prime Minister, and ways a PM leaves office

  • Cold War – start with 1968, and follow through to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Explain Nixon’s ‘openings’ to the East, remember specifically Nixon and Ford’s relationship to the Soviet Union and treaties, and be very sure to remember the focusing events leading to the formal end of détente, and the reinstitution of the arms race in the late 1970s/early 1980s. We will not be spending any time on Viet Nam

Remember – read your notes! They are your best indicator of what I’ve felt is important this term. THANK YOU for your participation in our small class.


US Gov't Exam Review

Class, here you are. There will be items not on this list, but really only the most basic points of reference. You may bring in a one-sided sheet of notes into the exam (Typed, handwritten – I don’t care). We’ll also have 10-15 min. to talk before the exam. Thanks for everything this semester.

Exam Review, US Gov’t:
  • Framing of the Country – Escape from Central Gov’t

  • Shay’s Rebellion/Madison.

  • “Tyranny of the Majority” – changing nature of that term

  • States as Key Players; controlling component part of Constitution (that is an inarticulate phrase…what I mean, is STATES ARE IMPORTANT and the BUILDING BLOCKS of the Constitution!)

  • The Civil War Amendments’ greatly expanding the power of the federal government

  • “State Action” requirement, and the ONE exception to that

  • Locke/Jefferson – remember chart on p. 32 – MEMORIZE it!

  • Conception of equality and how it has changed.

  • Establishment of Judicial Review – facts and aftereffects. Be prepared to detail specifically the facts leading up to the suit being filed.

  • Explain why the suit was filed in the Supreme Court, instead of one of the ‘lower courts’ Congress established.

  • Explain the difference between Appellate and Original Jurisdiction as it relates to MvM and the Judiciary Act.

  • Explain the political tension the court was under (remember – John Marshall was appointed by Adams, who was just defeated by Jefferson). Explain the ‘two bad alternatives’ assumed that the court was under, and explain the ‘third option’ invented by Marshall. And be sure to use its proper name (Hint: J_______ R________).

  • Difference between ‘state courts’ and ‘inferior/lower courts’

  • Appointment process of Sup Ct Justice


  • Nature of House v. Senate – which body represents what constituency?

  • Two Chambers compared to England’s Parliament (will also be an ‘executive/presidency question). Why do we have a separation of powers? (Remember English/Colonial history here!)

  • What is the appointment process and how is it similar to passing a bill?

  • How are Senators elected? How were they elected, and why?

  • How are Members of Congress elected, and  what process, held each ten years, determines how districts are set up?

  • Who is the leader of the House of Representatives? Who elects her? Compare that to how party leaders are elected.


  • Who elects the President, and how are they chosen?

  • What did the 12th Amendment seek to remedy?

  • What does the popular vote determine in the several states?

  • What body determines the manner of elections for federal office?

  • Who won the popular vote in the year 2000?

  • Who won the popular vote in the year 2004?

  • Name the only two Vice Presidents in history  (that we know of…I hear Nelson Rockefeller was pretty tough) to have shot a person while in office.

  • What is the group of people who collectively make up the Executive Branch called, and who hires and fires them?

Be prepared to discuss your personal development as voter/potential voter this cycle, specifically regarding your state legislative race.

December 07, 2006

Exam Review for IR/Am. Gov't - will be posted on Friday

I'll make every attempt to have these up for you by later tonight
(Thurs, 7 Dec), but it may be Friday. Either way, you will have a good
couple days to prepare for the exam. Following your notes from today
will be a good start. as I'd said, if we haven't reviewed these past few
days, it's not likely to be on the test. Certain things of a general
nature - such as things you should know from High School - are fair
game, though! Thanks for your patience. Pete

December 05, 2006


Presidential Politics
Iowa Style!

Elec. College Supp. Documents

Click here for a very cool set of documents on the electoral college!