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Friday, September 25, 2009


From the Center on Congress at Indiana University:

Pork Barrel: The term began as a political reference in the post-Civil War era. It comes from the plantation practice of distributing rations of salt pork from wooden barrels. When used to describe a bill, it implies the legislation is loaded with special projects for Members of Congress to distribute to their constituents back home, courtesy of the federal taxpayer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Constitution -- A First Cut

The map of the United States in 1790

The Great Compromise:

Read these provisions from an actual constitution. How would you appraise them?
ARTICLE 118. Citizens have the right to work, that is, are guaranteed the right to employment and payment for their work in accordance with its quantity and quality. ...

ARTICLE 119. Citizens have the right to rest and leisure. The right to rest and leisure is ensured by the reduction of the working day to seven hours for the overwhelming majority of the workers, the institution of annual vacations with full pay for workers and employees and the provision of a wide network of sanatoria, rest homes and clubs for the accommodation of the working people.

ARTICLE 120. Citizens have the right to maintenance in old age and also in case of sickness or loss of capacity to work. This right is ensured by the extensive development of social insurance of workers and employees at state expense, free medical service for the working people and the provision of a wide network of health resorts for the use of the working people.

ARTICLE 121. Citizens have the right to education. This right is ensured by universal, compulsory elementary education; by education, including higher education, being free of charge; by the system of state stipends for the overwhelming majority of students in the universities and colleges; by instruction in schools being conducted in the native language...

ARTICLE 122. Women are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life. The possibility of exercising these rights is ensured to women by granting them an equal right with men to work, payment for work, rest and leisure, social insurance and education, and by state protection of the interests of mother and child, prematernity and maternity leave with full pay, and the provision of a wide network of maternity homes, nurseries and kindergartens.

ARTICLE 123. Equality of rights of citizens irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life, is an indefeasible law. Any direct or indirect restriction of the rights of, or, conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect privileges for, citizens on account of their race or
nationality, as well as any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law.

ARTICLE 124. In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church. ...

ARTICLE 128. The inviolability of the homes of citizens and privacy of correspondence are protected by law.
Contrast the US Constitution with the Confederate Constitution.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fires and Federalism

The Station Fire, which has burned more than 160,000 acres of California, is a case study in federalism.

The federal government is playing a major role. The fire has taken place largely in the Angeles National Forest, which is under the jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The fight against the blaze has also involved state government (the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire), county government (the Los Angeles County Fire Department) and a variety of local governments including the Los Angeles Fire Department -- separate and distinct from the county fire department -- as well as fire departments in Glendale and other communities.

The fire has involved a remarkable degree of cooperation among these levels of government. But there has been conflict, too. Local officials fault the Forest Service for failing to clear brush before the fire. "We want to see other agencies ... act responsibly in taking care of their brush," Los Angeles Fire Marshal Jim Hill told the Los Angeles Daily News. "We don't think that this sets a very good example for a federal agency."

Time reporter Kevin O'Leary points out that the Forest Service is paying most of the cost. he quotes Forest Service spokesperson Caleb Weaver: "One of the ways the federal government is supporting the state and local government in the Station Fire effort is that the U.S. Forest Service is providing over 1,600 of the 4,800 personnel fighting the fire."

One of the authors of this textbook witnessed the fire up close. Note the Los Angeles Fire Department Skycrane helicopters:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blogging, Twittering & Teaching

Uses for class blogs:

  • To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
  • To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
  • To post relevant news items or videos.

Examples of class blogs:

The Claremont Legislative Simulation

Interactive sites
One relevant video involved a wildfire and its lessons for federalism.