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Archive for the 'USH: Constitution' Category

How the Tea Party’s fetish for the Constitution as written may get it in trouble.

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Members of the Tea Party are really into the Constitution. We know this because on Thursday, House Republicans propose to read the document from start to finish on the House floor, and they also propose to pass a rule requiring that every piece of new legislation identify the source of its constitutional authority. Even Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute agrees that these are largely symbolic measures, noting in the Wall Street Journal that as a legal matter, “at least since Marbury v. Madison in 1803, the Supreme Court has had the last word on what the Constitution authorizes Congress to do.”

More on the new constitutional “crisis” from Dalia Lithwick at Slate.

The conservative mission to destroy the Constitution in order to save it

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Slate’s Dalia Lithwick offers some insights into the Tea Party’s proposal to amend the “divinely inspired” Constitution.

Justice Breyer: The Court, The Cases And Conflicts

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer outlines his ideas about the Constitution and about the way the United States legal system works.

Breyer, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Clinton in 1994, explains that he interprets the Constitution as a living document, in opposition to some of his colleagues — including Justice Antonin Scalia — who see it as a static and literal set of rules that do not change over time.

Breyer argues that the framers knew that the interpretation of the document would continue to change as America evolved — and that members of the Supreme Court should apply the Constitution’s values to modern circumstances.

Breyer Interview

Explaining The American Filibuster

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

If high-school government class taught us anything, it’s that getting bills passed through Congress is a game of numbers: The bill with the most votes wins.

Turns out it’s not that simple. These days, the polarized state of American politics means that major bills need at least 60 votes to avoid an inevitable filibuster by the opposition.

Political scientist Gregory Koger’s new book, Filibustering: A Political History of Obstruction in the House and Senate, addresses the institutionalization of the filibuster — and describes congressional loopholes by way of which fast thinking and hard work can beat the numbers. Koger teaches American politics at the University of Miami. He joins host Terry Gross for a conversation about what has happened to simple majority rule.

Listen to Koger discuss the filibuster in an interview with Terry Gross

1st Amendment: The Supreme Court mauls the law banning animal-cruelty videos

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Witness the American deputy solicitor general in his natural habitat—the Supreme Court. As Neal Katyal roams softly across the cool marble chamber, he has no idea what awaits him. He is here to protect his tribe—the U.S. government—which, in 1999, passed a statute making it a crime to create, sell, or possess “any visual or auditory depiction” of “animal cruelty” if the act of cruelty is itself illegal under either federal law or the law of the state in which the depiction occurred.

Read on from Slate

The high court looks again at religious symbols on public lands

Monday, October 12th, 2009

There’s just one person at oral argument in Salazar v. Buono this morning who really wants to talk about whether a 5-foot cross on federal government land in the Mojave National Preserve violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. But Justice Antonin Scalia really, really wants to talk about it. He looks particularly queasy when Peter Eliasberg—the ACLU lawyer whose client objects to crosses on government land—suggests partway through the morning that perhaps a less controversial World War I memorial might consist of “a statue of a soldier which would honor all of the people who fought for America in World War I and not just the Christians.”

Read on from Slate

Video: Laurence Tribe

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Laurence Tribe discusses the evolution of how we interpret our country’s most important document. The renowned legal scholar argues that between the lines of our parchment Constitution, there is an “invisible Constitution.” Tribe purports that some of our most cherished and widely held beliefs about our constitutional rights are not even included in the written document. How does this “invisible Constitution” impact the central constitutional debates of our time from gun control to abortion to wire-tapping? How has this framework for reading the Constitution evolved, and how does it work?

Watch it. 85 minutes

Fascist America, in 10 easy steps

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all.

From the Guardian

Electoral College Assignment

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

In this lesson your will examine how the Electoral College works in order to better understand how Americans elect their president. This issue has become especially timely since the 2000 election when George W. Bush became president after winning the most electoral votes but losing the popular vote. In 2004, the election was once again a close one.

Your task is to explore the resources below and to respond to the questions provided at the bottom of this post. Be prepared to summarize, analyze and debate the Electoral College in class.

The Federal Electoral College Commission

National Archives: U.S. Electoral College FAQs

Online NewsHour Extra: How the Electoral College Works

Online NewsHour: November 23, 2000

Online News Hour: December 18, 2000

An Op-Ed from the NY Times


Electoral College Response Sheet

Age of Realism

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Richard Hofstadter (1916 – 1970) was an American historian and public intellectual. Hofstadter, the DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University, became the “iconic historian of postwar liberal consensus”, largely because of his emphasis on ideas and political culture rather than the day-to-day doings of politicians. Among his most important works is The American Political Tradition (1948). Below is Chapter One of this critically acclaimed work.

Founding Fathers: An Age of Realism

Reading Responses