This week we will begin our study of the last of the institutions, the federal judiciary. Their list of powers in the US Constitution is relatively unimpressive. There is no mention of their greatest power, judicial review. This power was conferred upon the courts by their own rulings. John Marshall, in writing the opinion in Marbury v. Madison said, " It is emphatically the province of the judicial department to say what the law is." Over 200 years later, the Supreme Court is still reviewing laws that allegedly conflict with the Constitution. The case you are reading about this week is very controversial. As the Affordable Care Act undergoes yet another challenge, the arguments seem to be along the partisan lines as both the NFIB case (that unsuccessfully challenged the entire law) and the Hobby Lobby case (that successfully challenged the birth control mandate on religious freedom grounds). The Obama administration argues that allowing these types of challenges effectively dismantle the access to care as the law intended. Opponents argue this an example of Congressional error and discretionary authority run amuck. So, like the SCOTUS, I want you to interpret the law. I have put hyperlinks above if you want a simple summary of the previous cases. Here is what I would like you to do this week:
1. Read the article below (you may also view the 2-minute video)..
2. How would you rule in this case? Why?
3. What is the benefit of your decision? What is the danger in your decision?
We will finish our discussions this week on the federal bureaucracy with a look at the problems that exist in this institution. Among the problems we will discuss are red tape, duplication, conflict, imperialism and waste. All of these problems make Americans crazy because they see their tax dollars adding up with very little to show for it. This article below is a CLASSIC example of why the bureaucracy behaves the way it does. The article will give you even more insight to how the bureaucracy behaves and well, "works." I do use that term loosely, though.
1. Read the article below.
2. Pick two problems of the bureaucracy listed above and give an example of each from the article.
3. Finally, explain just ONE thing you think the government could do to become more efficient. This suggestion may be from the article, our class discussions, or your own experiences.
This week we will transition from the Executive branch to the chapter on bureaucracy. We will start the week with a simulation on the structure of the White House Office, then test on the Presidency and finally conclude the week with our introduction to the bureaucracy. Working at the White House has to be the ultimate thrill! Imagine being part of history and helping to shape decisions that come out of the Oval Office in the West Wing. For me, it is hard to imagine there being a down-side to working there, especially knowing it may only be for at most 8 years. After reading this article, I realize I could never cut it in that world. I value my family time too much I suppose. I still find it challenging sometimes juggling my job with my family, but my boss has been there, too and she is very understanding. This article is a bit dated, but it is still very relevant to our conversations this week. Okay, here is what I want you to do this week:
1. Read the article below.
2. What did you learn about the White House Office from the article?
3. What did you learn about Barack Obama's leadership style, if anything, from the article.
4. Finally, what do you think, would be the best and worst things about working in the West Wing?
As we wind down the week, we will wind down our study of the Presidency. We have studied the requirements, the duties and the roles of the President. This week, we will look at the honeymoon period and the second term slump. A quick study of President Obama's first 6-years in office highlights the trends that Wilson points out in his textbook. Furthermore, President Obama is victim of another trend: party polarization. This week, here is what I would like you to do:
1. Watch the video in the first link.
2. Click on the second link and study the trends.
3. Analyze President Obama's job performance by using the information and the trends.
a. What trends are the most telling to you about his Presidency?
b. What do you think about his overall performance & why?
One discussion we will have this week concerns the many "hats" a President must wear. Although, the Constitution is fairly concise in detailing the powers and duties of the office, more and more demands have been placed upon "the Leader of the Free World." Some of these roles are obvious and the powers are easy to synthesize; others are implied and the powers that these roles entail have led to the current controversy with the Republican-led Congress. We will study both the powers and the roles this week that the office entails and ask the question, 'How powerful is the President?" So, here is what I would like you to do this week:
1. Click on the link below. Study one week of the President's agenda. To do this, click any week prior to the current one. The link above is from last week, but you may choose any week you want. Start your post with the week you studied.
2. Comment on what a typical day in the life of a President really embodies. What trends do you notice?
3. What roles is he playing throughout the week and what powers do those actions embody? Are these formal or informal roles and powers?
Well, if we ever get back to school and in a normal routine, we will begin our study of the Presidency. I so enjoyed the banter between many of you last week on the topic of war powers. We will rekindle that debate in class eventually. This week we will look at the "bully pulpit" aspect of the President. This unusual phrase was coined by President Teddy Roosevelt when he referred to the White House as a "bully pulpit," by which he meant a terrific platform from which to advocate an agenda. That terrific platform would even amaze ol' Teddy, what with the 24/7 news coverage that we have today. The President's every remark, move, gaff, trip, stumble, etc. is constantly under scrutiny. When the President is attacked personally, it is easy for him to take the high ground, because he IS going to get the last word, or at least his people are. Couple that with the often liberal slant to the mainstream media and no one who attacks the President personally is going to be considered a winner. Here is what I would like you to do this week:
1. Read the article below. If you want to search for more articles on Guiliani's comments, there are TONS out there of every slant.
2. Do you think Guiliani was out of line for questioning Obama's patriotism or is it fair game? Explain your opinion.
3. Do you think this attack is "racially motivated" or do you believe that is an attack of misguided socialism? Explain!
We will wrap up our unit on Congress this week with a test. After that test, we will be starting of our unit on the President. To bridge those units, I wanted to find an article that illustrated the inter-branch workings of the federal government. After an exhaustive search, I settled on one issue with bipartisan criticism and little support from the President's own party. About 6 months ago, the President made the decision to carry out air strikes against ISIS (or ISIL) in Syria without the graces of Congress. Democrats and Republicans in Congress both cried "foul" for different reasons. Now, the President is seeking their permission and financial support but getting the cold shoulder. Seems President Obama can not win either way. So, read the article below. Then come back and respond to the following:
1. Do you think the President needs Congress' permission to carry out strikes against ISIS? Why or why not?
2. What do you see as the biggest criticism of the President by the Republicans? Do you agree? Explain.
3. What do you see as the biggest criticism of the President by the Democrats? Do you agree? Explain.
4. What do you think we should do to stop the spread of the terrorist attacks by ISIS?
This week will study and actively participate in the legislative process. Writing bills is just the start of the arduous process that rarely sees a bill to fruition. I can hardly wait to see the outcomes for our class bills. One factor that often determines success in the legislative process is Presidential support. The Keystone Pipeline XL has been volleyed about now for 5 years, never even making it out of committee...until this year's Republican takeover of Congress. Now, not only is it out of the standing committees, it is through both houses and in conference before heading to President Obama's desk. What will the fate of this controversial bill be? Here is what I would like you to do this week:
1. Read the article below first. Then, look at the graphic below the article and study votes in the Senate.
2. Do you think President Obama will sign or veto this legislation? Explain your answer!
3. Why do you think 9 Senators "defected" and voted for the pipeline? What is their potential benefit; what is their potential cost?
4. Share your opinion on whether or not you think this pipeline should be passed and why you feel that way.
Hopefully we will avoid any bad weather this week and dig into to the legislative process by the end of this week! One of the most difficult part of the unit on Congress is the vocabulary. Filibuster, cloture, gerrymandering, pigeonholing, pork barrel projects, earmarks, logrolling--OH MY! Congressional rules make it easy to slip items in the budget, especially in the Senate, that when scrutinized seem frivolous. This week will will study earmarks and pork barrel projects in the budget. Here is what I would like you to do:
1. Go to the site below and choose a category to study.
2. Read one article under the category you choose.
3. Come back here and "report" what you learned about these wasteful projects:
A. What was the project?
B. Who was responsible for the project? (Name names!)
C. Who did the project help?
D. How much did the project cost?
4. Why do you think these projects pass in the first place?
Do you recognize this guy? Well, hopefully by the end of the week, you will! I want you all to learn about our "safe" Representative, Walter B. Jones, Jr. He is currently serving his 11th term as NC's US District 3 Congressman. Rep. Jones caught some heat for voting against Speaker John Boehner, but has not been formally ostracized as of yet. He remains a staunch Republican in a very red Congress. To familiarize yourself with Representative Jones this week, here is what I would like you to do:
Go to Representative Jones' Website and research who he is, what he does and what his beliefs and values are. Be sure that you do research under at least three tabs. Come back here and explain what three things you learned about your Representative. You may not repeat items, so blog early or be charged with reading what everyone else says before posting.
The last day to post comments for full credit is midnight on Friday, January 30th.