Friday, November 30, 2007

Constitutional interpretation

I wrote a post about this topic a few weeks ago, asking to what extent a new political era necessitates alterations in interpretations of the Constitution. While judicial conservatives read for literal statements, judicial liberals have a more flexible reading. The argument centers around whether laws written so long ago can be applied in the present day. Can we assume that the founding fathers WOULD HAVE written the laws this way, had they known the situation today?

In response to Peter's post, the "legality" of cases such as Roe v. Wade is really a matter of opinion depending on how closely one reads the Constitution. Like I wrote above, times have changed since the Constitution was written, and whether the same wording can apply today is the debate I think you questioned. It seems like you are a judicial conservative since you argue that cases like RvW were decided on "perceived rights." That right is the "right to privacy," which can be applied to every Amendment (1st Am. is "privacy of beliefs," 3rd Am. is "privacy of the home," etc.).

That so many cases were ruled on interpreted rights such as that of privacy may suggest that there was a trend of the Supreme Court toward judicial liberalism in those times. Sandra Day O'Connor, who became part of the SC during Reagan's presidency, was perhaps one of the contributors to this trend. She was "soft on abortion," which was likely an important factor in the passing of Roe v. Wade.

Julie Zhao

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Has Big Brother Arrived?

Over the weekend, I heard a news story on Amy Goodman’s radio show Democracy Now that made me think back to Soledad Brother, Born on the Fourth of July, and our class discussion on political dissenters.

So far, the internet has been a territory too vast for the government to control, but this is not for lack of trying. A new bill – the Violent Radicalization and Home-grown Terrorism Act – was passed through the House of Representatives last month by a vote of 400 to 6. It is expected to pass through the Senate as well. Dressed in anti-terrorism language, the bill is really concentrated effort to control political activists of all stripes. The government is trying to reign in its citizens big-brother-of-the-21-century style. Free speech is being redefined as terrorist activity. Blogging, for example, is described in the bill as a threat to national security, providing "access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda." Under this bill, anti-globalization activists can be considered “home-grown terrorists.” In fact, since what constitutes a terrorist threat is not defined, pretty much any dissenter in the US can be accused of terrorist activity.

Check out this Nov 19 article, “Here comes the Thought Police,” from the Baltimore Sun.


Here's a link to the factsheet about the bill


- Brooke Olaussen
This is yesterday from the Republican Debate, and midway through the candidate addresses the issue that Leah raised in class yesterday of "how can you be pro-life and for the death penalty?"
It is Mike Huckabee answering the question of, "what would Jesus do about the death penalty?"


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyxWCNh-_FE


Steve C.

P.S. Read Peter's Post about Judicial Conservatism

Judicial Conservatives

Hey all,

I debated with myself long and hard about making this post and in the end decided to. I want to preface it by saying that I am definitely not the most informed person about these matters and also that I ask you to read it impartially. When I was thinking about it, it was too easy to let my morals and emotions get tied into the example rather than the greater idea. I hope you understand.

I was thinking about the issue of judicial conservatism in Roe v. Wade. It is easy to say that most conservatives are pro-life but I am talking about judicial conservatism, not moral conservatism though they frequently go hand in hand but do not have to. For those of you who do not know a judicial conservative is, it is one who believes in a strict reading of the Constitution. They believe that it is not the given role of the Supreme Court in the Constitution to interpret the Constitution but rather to make rulings on only cases which pertain to it. They follow strictly to what the founding fathers set out and do not feel that the courts should be able to create new rights. Judge Antonin Scalia is a prominent judicial conservative. There are clearly ways to amend the Constitution if we wanted to include those rights in it but until then they believe that the Supreme Court should only rule on those cases which are directly related to the Constitution and not interpret it to create new laws.

In that I was wondering if the judges were over stepping their bounds by "legislating from the bench" since there is no specific mention of the right to abortions in the Constitution. To expand that a little more I guess I will open it to almost all cases where judges set precedents by interpreting the Constitution. The Supreme Court has been interpreting the Constitution since Marbury v. Madison even though there is no provision for judicial review in the Constitution but that does not make it right, in fact it is judicial review giving the right to judicial review which seems a little like a catch 22. Roe v. Wade under a judicial conservative view should never have gone to the Supreme Court since there is no right to abortions in the Constitution and interpretations of other rights had to be made to allow it to be presented. Also, it set precedents about rights which the Supreme Court does not in the strict sense of the Constitution have the right to do. Hypothetical situations are dangerous in talking about history but there is the possibility that abortions would be far less a hot button topic if the ruling had never been made. Many states at the time were in the process of legalizing abortions so we will never know what would have happened if the Supreme Court, a group of unelected officials who serve for life, hadn't made a judgment beyond their given powers. While morally I am for a woman's right to choose, it seems to me at the moment that the ruling was illegal. This goes not only for Roe v. Wade but for many, many other cases in which the Supreme Court has made rulings on perceived rights rather than the rights given in the Constitution. It is a very short and sweet document but it does clearly outline the rights given. Judicial liberals see it as a living document which needs to advance with the times but that seemingly was not the point of the founding fathers. They wanted to outline basic rights and let the system take care of the rest.

As you can see this could be a hot issue which is why I was hesitant to post some of my feelings on it so I tried to be as general as possible. I do not want to start a moral debate with this but rather a debate about how the Constitution should be viewed and used by the Supreme Court. As a last point I would like to point out that the last two amendments to the Constitution were, as I found in my limited research so I could be wrong, in 1971 changing the voting age to 18 and in 1992 on congressional pay increases. While there could have been amendments to the Constitution, the set out way to create new rights, instead the Supreme Court used its rulings to do so. The only mentions of the Supreme Court in the Constitution are "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office. " and "In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make. " (http://www.constitutioncenter.org/explore/TheU.S.Constitution/index.shtml) There are a few other mentions which don't say much to the power or role of the Supreme Court but rather to the appointment of the justices and Congress' ability to make lower tribunals.

-Peter Lubershane

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

War's Shaping of US Culture

This post is from something that was brought up a little bit in class before Turkey Day break, but I kept blanking on posting it, sorry. Anyway, on Monday before the break professor Potter brought up how the wars the US has been involved has helped sculpt and re-sculpt the culture and identity of the US. It may just be me but I didn't realize it had such a big impact. For instance, the US' participation in WWII cemented its status as a (or the) world power. This resulted (most likely with the help of another force(s), possibly the US finally getting out of its depression) in a rise in US patriotism throughout the country that can be seen in how Kovic talks about crying when the US is losing the Space Race, or his paranoia of communists and communism in general, and how he glorifies being part of the military. The loss of the Vietnam War and the atrocities committed in it obviously helped the counterculture of the '60s and '70s. Whether by the counterculture or the terrible faults of the War (most likely a combination of the two), during and after the Vietnam there was a loss of faith in the Federal govt. and a loss of glory of the US soldier. However, this view may come from my not knowing enough soldiers or military personnel. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will shape the youth and culture of the US in the next 10-20 years. Lastly, on a side note I can't help but think that this partly war-changed culture idea eventually boils down to what and how much the media decides to cover about these wars. Not as detailed media accounts (or soldiers' accounts) of what happened in WWI and WWII led to a more honorable view of the US' actions in war; while, the more in-depth/on-site coverage of the Vietnam War showed a more disturbing picture war. Sorry if this was bit long.

Victor Cadilla

Speaking of Pornography

Speaking of pornography, I watched this (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/porn/view/) video for a sociology class last year. It's about the recent history of pornography in America. One of the points it tries to make is that it is hard to legally restrict pornography to community standards because, with the advent of technology (such as the internet and television) that lets everybody instantly broadcast their ideas to a national audience, we don't have any clearly defined community standards to start from. I also think that the sexual revolution in the 1960s also contributed to this lack of concrete national standards.
Chapter 5 of the documentary talks about how pornography producers are going to greater and greater extremes in porn, making movies showing things like rape. Do you think that this is due to the average pornography viewer being dulled by less extreme forms of pornography, or does it have some social or historical basis?
Also, in class professor Potter talked about how certain sexual positions and acts were considered taboo or inappropriate. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the missionary position was the only sex position the Catholic church deemed acceptable for a long time. Why this position? What is so special about it?
Comment back.
-Ryan Brill

Pornography


During class today when we were talking about pornography and the response from the right wing Christian groups I remembered the Supreme Court case Hustler Magazine v. Jerry Falwell. It was a direct confrontation between the religious right and the pornography industry. Hustler made a fake alcohol advertisement mocking Jerry Falwell. It claimed that he had sexual relations with his mother. Falwell claimed libel and went to court to get damages. The case made its way all the way to the Supreme Court where the court ruled that the lower court's decision to give damages to Falwell was unconstitutional under the first amendment since for public figures to collect damages they have to prove that the parody was knowingly false. This case takes an interesting look at the conflict between the religious right and the pornography industry. I have included the actual fake ad since it is interesting to see how far the pornography industry was able to go in fighting back against the allegations from Falwell and his group that pornography was destroying the American family. If you can't read it on this blog, it can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hustler_Magazine_v._Falwell

-Peter Lubershane

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hi all,
I’m uploading a movie I made for my 10th grade English class when we did a unit on the Vietnam War. I interviewed a veteran, Griff, who served for three tours of duty in Vietnam. If you can get past the oh so wonderful 10th grade qualities that show up here and there in the movie, Griff has some very interesting and moving things to say. ☺

The other video footage I used I found on the internet, and as much as I wish I could cite where, I have no recollection of the website. The songs used (in order of appearance) are “Sky Pilot” by The Animals, “Good News Week” by Hedgehoppers Anonymous and “Prayer of the Children” by Kurt Bestor.

I hope you like it!





--Emily Evnen

Distrust towards the Supreme Court and the "Potty Parable"

In a review article (which can be found here), Lauren Woliver wrote that there was great distrust towards the SC in the 70s because it was thought that "federal judges could and would use superficially innocuous principles to achieve substantive results that many conservative and middle-of-the-road citizens opposed." Examples of such controversial decisions made in the 1970s include busing, pornography, prayer in schools, sex ed, etc. This made garnering support for the Equal Rights Amendment especially difficult. One of the fears of passage of ERA (we mentioned in class) was the "potty parable," which was that "some troublemaker, denied access to the toilet of the opposite sex, would take the matter to the Supreme Court, which once again would order integrated facilities." The "once again" references the forced racial integration of restrooms that occurred years earlier. So by putting racial and sexual integration of restrooms in parallel, ERA opponents warned people of what might happen if the act were to pass: that men and women would be forced to use the same facilities, resulting in a loss of protection for the latter (how so?).

Julie Zhao

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Heroes and Casualties of War

In preparation for the upcoming paper assignment, I came across this article that might be useful for people doing the Kovic/Hearts and Minds essay. It’s worth reading since it highlights some of the central themes of Kovic's novel while addressing the war in Iraq. I would recommend that anyone doing this essay should pay attention to the fact that Kovic’s contemporary perspective in this article may not necessarily parallel his point of view within the context of Born on the Fourth of July. However, the article does compliment the novel about many of the themes we reviewed in class, particularly the conflicts faced by veterans as a result of wars, government injustice, and what it means to be a patriot.

Something that was brought up in class that might also be of interest to those who appreciated Born on the Fourth of July is Dalton Trumbo’s anti-war piece Johnny Got His Gun. The novel follows the life and memories of a WWI soldier who has lost his arms, legs, and face in combat, and must come to terms with his almost completely vegetative state. The book would later become the inspiration for the Metallica song, “One,” from arguably their most political album …And Justice for All. The music video contains several scenes from the film adaptation which Trumbo wrote the screenplay for and directed himself. Recent editions of the novel contain an introduction by Ron Kovic himself, parts of which can be read here.

--Lucas Hoeffel

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Few Questions

Hey class,
I am doing my final project for my writing tutor seminar on this very blog. So I just have a few questions about the blog and your experience with it. If you guys could just email me a response at rmclaren@wesleyan.edu sometime within a week or so. thank you much.
Ryan

1) How frequently did you post, comment, or read the blog?
2) What would make you participate in the blog more? A grade?
3) Do you think the blog was a valuable part of the class? Why or why not?
4) Is writing on a blog more appealing than doing standard academic writing? Why or why not?
5) How could a blog be incorporated into a classroom setting? How could Prof. Potter's system be improved?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What Goldwater can teach us

Paul Krugman's new book, The Conscience of a Liberal, is designed to send a message to the liberal /progressive base of the democratic party. Modeled as a 21st century Leftist version of Goldwater's treatsie, Krugman pushes Democrats to, well, have a conscience. A political one that is. The Democratic party needs to be principled and dedicated to a transformative public policy agenda; a plan that isn't predicated on the fear of being lambasted as big government liberals. Instead Democrats should be proud of the paradigm Johnson's Great Society programs established, and they should advocate for a universal style of government that does not allow for anyone to slip through the cracks. Krugman's book not only presents a vital new political strategy, but it demonstrates the timeless signficance of Goldwater's 1964 work. Ultimately though, I think Krugman fails to highlight what was so significant about Goldwater's book and presidential campaign. Goldwater's presidential campaign undoubtedly paved the way for the rise of the conservative republican base and the Reagan presidential victory 16 years later. But it wasn't Goldwater's book that accomplished this. The book along is merely a theoretical project. It was Goldwater's willingness to stand by the conservative imperatives he outlined in The Conscience of a Conservative, even when every political calculation imaginable would have instructed him to do otherwise, that truly paved the way for Reagen and then the Bush dynasty. Quite frankly, Goldwater had the balls to stand by his principles and lose. And lose quite convincingly he did. But his loss by some 16 million votes sent a very powerful message to the American electorate. It was a much more powerful message than any book could have ever sent alone. The Republican Party, moreover the conservatives of the Republican Party, have the strength, perseverance, and moral foundation to lead America. I can only imagine what would happen if the Democratic Party did the same. If they ran someone at the head of their ticket who cared first about his or her principles, and second about winning.

- Max Rose

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The US as a World Power

Thinking about the possibility of the draft, and subsequently what we use the draft for, led me to the subject of the role of the United States as a world power. What responsibilities do we have to the international community as a result of our almost endless means, or do we have any at all? And do we have the right to “intervene” in another country if we deem it necessary, regardless of whether or not that international community supports our cause? First of all, I think these two questions are distinctly modern issues. Before the Second Industrial Revolution, you couldn’t talk about global politics the way we do now, in the sense that the US was not the global power (though it was well on its way) nor was there was the concept of a United Nations. Plus, there were fewer nations in the 19th century so there were fewer voices in world politics, especially fewer minority and/or small country voices. Secondly, international politics have become extremely more complicated and intertwined in the post World War II age of globalization, although it is debatable when globalization actually begins, perhaps in 1492, but that’s a different topic. I would argue that globalization has actually increased the role of morality in political action; regardless of whether such actions have been moral or not, they are being taken from a more moral perspective. We are acting more and more upon the supposed needs of people abroad and from a moral viewpoint that analyzes the goodness of our actions. President Bush always talks about the War in Iraq and the construction of democracy there as the right, good thing to do. This is a matter of opinion, and I believe he is wrong, but nevertheless he is motivated by his moral values. I realize I’ve raised a lot of issues and I haven’t sufficiently addressed them; feel free to comment on this, I think they are important to think about and argue. To try to answer my initial questions, I will say I think we do have responsibilities to the international community, but for me these responsibilities don’t extend very far into the realm of military action. I’d have to think about it on a case by case basis but I would hardly ever be inclined to say that we have an obligation to use military force to solve a conflict abroad, no matter if there is an international consensus for it. I think we should only act if there is an international consensus, but not act in every situation in which there is such a consensus. This is my general feeling. I am sure people disagree with some of these opinions, so feel free to respond.

Steve C.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is it time to reconsider the draft?

Following up on our discussion of the draft on Monday, I remembered reading a while ago that draft deferments for students had been limited from what they were in the 60’s. During the Vietnam War, as Professor Potter discussed, deferments could continue almost indefinitely as long as a student was enrolled in school. In 1971 –late in the war- Congress reformed the draft, making it harder to get deferments. Under new reform, a high school student can defer only until high school graduation or turning 20, whichever comes first, and a college student can only defer until completion of his current college semester (or, if a senior, the completion of the academic year). These reforms were passed to promote economic and racial equality, as thousands of white middle-class males were able to avoid the Vietnam draft by drawing out their college education or seeking a higher degree, options which many Americans could not afford.
Similarly, discussion of the draft as an “equalizer” has come up in regards to the war in Iraq. Though the American public and politicians overwhelmingly oppose reinstating the draft, some have argued that it would have important positive implications. While the majority of troops serving and dying today are from poorer economic backgrounds, a draft would force greater economic diversity on the battlefield and help shoulder the burden. It would also cause Americans to be far more responsible and informed about supporting military action, as the number of citizens directly affected –including those in power- would rise exponentially.

Charles Rangel, Congressional Representative of New York’s 15th District (which includes portions of Astoria, Harlem, Spanish Harlem, and Washington Heights), has introduced two bills to reinstate the draft, one in 2003 (defeated 402-2) and one earlier this year. He explained, “There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way.” His proposed bills would widen the age group, include both genders, and limit/ban student deferments. However, they would also include the posibility of non-combat duty.

I am very torn about this issue. While I feel that reinstating the draft would be devastating, I am speaking as a white, middle-class female with almost no chance of fighting in this war. My college-age friends will not fight in this war. My gender, by and large, will not fight in this war. I know only three young men who are fighting overseas; recruiters did not even bother to come to my high school. I cannot begin to imagine how this war has affected those neighborhoods and towns where dozens of young men and women have been deployed. I can speak from a position of great comfort when I say, “I don’t want the draft.” Of course I don’t; it will tear down all those walls which are keeping me and so many of my friends safe. But of course, that's the point. And while I will fight against the draft in this war and any other, I do believe in its potential to limit military engagement through greater public dissent. I think these bills need to be introduced, if only to get shot down. I think the discussion needs to be had.
If anyone has thoughts, I’d like to hear them.

-Katherine Eyster

Thoughts on the Vietnam Discussion

Below are some pictures that I took when I went to Vietnam in 2005, which was the first time my parents saw "home" since they left in 1975. The images more or less illustrate city life in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and life in the countryside. I felt that it would be interesting for people to look at some photos and view the results of a communist nation. Keep in mind, in the early 1990s, Vietnam underwent an economic reform policy called Doi Moi that loosened restrictions and allowed free-market enterprise. While people now have the ability to make more money, the civil liberties, of which Professor Potter mentioned today, are still tightly restricted.










This is the South Vietnam Presidential Palace, the primary government building during Diem's presidency. It's still used today for governmental functions, but it also serves as a tourist site.


This was the tank that the Viet Cong used to actually break down the gate in front of the Presidential Palace during the final battle.


...and I suppose that these are NVA veterans(?)


Below are images from the countryside (in a town called Ben Tre), which better illustrate the levels of poverty in Vietnam.












Lastly, as mentioned in class today, it is an ancient custom in Vietnam to live close to the remains of your ancestors. This is the tomb of my great-grandmother, which is in a gated plot behind my cousin's house in Vietnam.


For anyone who is interested in knowing more about Vietnam's history (before or during the Vietnam War), I highly recommend Stanley Karnow's Vietnam, A History. Karnow does a very good job in illustrating several key areas, including Ho Chi Minh's development as a leader and the ultimate coup against Diem.


-- Andrew Huynh

An Interesting Find

Bumping around the NY Times site I came across an OP-ED piece by Bob Herbert quite pertinent to our recent discussions. The article focuses on Ronald Reagan's push for state's rights, and the racism therein. Read and argue away: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/13/opinion/13herbert.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

--Henry Ellis

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Iconic Images of Vietnam cont.


As Margaret talks about in her blog post, the Vietnam War provides a fascinating example of how images have the power to shape public opinion. Many of the iconic photographs of the Vietnam War exposed the American public to the brutalities and carnage of the war and to the hardships of Vietnamese civilians. I’ve always been really interested in the back-stories behind these photographs. The image above is General Nguyen Ngoc Loan Executing a Viet Cong Prisoner in Saigon, taken in 1968 during the Tet Offensive. The iconic photo, shot by Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams, became central to rallying public support for the anti-war movement. One version of the story behind this photo is that after General Loan shot the Viet Cong prisoner, he went over to reporters and told them that "These guys kill a lot of our people, and I think Buddha will forgive me." Even though Eddie Adams won numerous awards for this photograph (including a Pulitzer Prize), in the decades following the war he expressed sincere regret over taking the photograph and for turning General Loan into an icon of brutality. After Loan died in 1998, Adams wrote a eulogy for the Vietnamese General whose life had been so irreparably changed by this single photograph. I think the following excerpt really sums up the power of photography, both to capture a moment and to distort the truth:

I won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for a photograph of one man shooting another … The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn't say was, "What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?" General Loan was what you would call a real warrior, admired by his troops. I'm not saying what he did was right, but you have to put yourself in his position.

…This picture really messed up his life. He never blamed me. He told me if I hadn't taken the picture, someone else would have, but I've felt bad for him and his family for a long time. I had kept in contact with him; the last time we spoke was about six months ago, when he was very ill.

I sent flowers when I heard that he had died and wrote, "I'm sorry. There are tears in my eyes."

-- Zoƫ Beyer

My Lai

I found it interesting in class when we were discussing the importance of the media and its effect on American’s opinion of the Vietnam War, especially when Professor Potter said that a whole class could be devoted to the subject. Last year, at a different university, I took a class called Remembering Vietnam, which focused on the effects of music, journalism, and television on the war. One instance when the media had a vast impact on the war was when Life magazine in December 1969 published a series of photos exposing the My Lai massacre. The My Lai massacre was the murder of hundreds of unarmed Vietnam citizens by American troops in the village of My Lai. Most of those killed were women, children, and the elderly. The photos not only exposed the carnage and injustice of the My Lai instance, which was being disputed in America as to exactly what degree of violence occurred in My Lai, but also fueled national and international anti-Vietnam protests.

One of the most provocative images, a photo of a mass of dead women and children piled on top of one another, was used by a group of anti-war artists to create a protest poster. The poster was the photo with a line taken from a CBS interview of one of the soldiers who participated in the My Lai massacre, Q: And Babies, A: And Babies, written in red over the image. The artists were unable to display their work in the MOMA gallery in NY and so instead distributed thousands of copies at anti-Vietnam protests around the country and globe. This image had a vast impact on the anti-war movement: Americans and those who supported the war before now questioned the war strategy of the government.
Original Image
http://www.learnnc.org/lp/multimedia/3290
Protest Poster
http://www.art-for-a-change.com/blog/2005/03/artists-and-my-lai-massacre.html

Margaret Hannay

Monday, November 12, 2007

The "bad 60s" and disenchantment

Many activists who thrived in the 60s were unable to adjust to the end of what that decade represented. Many of the Weathermen Underground leaders, for example, came out of hiding because their unity against Vietnam "unraveled" as soon as the war ended. The "bad 60s" was also facilitated by the violence that became prominent (Charles Manson, Hell's Angels murder at Rolling Stones concert, etc.).

I'd also like to suggest one of my favorite films, which touches upon the disenchantment of hippies after the 60s ended. Easy Rider, which was produced and directed by (also starring) Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, chronicles the journey of two bikers who travel across America on the ubiquitous "search for freedom" and the meaning of America. However they find that the times have changed; Billy, one of the bikers, says, "This used to be a hell of a good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it." Anyway, I'd recommend this strongly to those who haven't seen it.

Julie Zhao

Medium Cool

In the lecture today, two ideas came up which are discussed in one movie, how convenient? The first being the idea of the good and the bad 1960's and the second the power of television. The movie Medium Cool (1969) by writer and director Haskell Wexler tells the story of a television reporter during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. It focuses on the racial tensions in the "ghettos" and the brutality of the police towards the political protesters. The film looks at closely at the power and uses of the news media (relating to our question of how TV swayed the American public during the Vietnam War). The reporter quits his job when he finds out that his network is letting the FBI use his unedited film to look for "radical" suspects in the primarily African American "ghettos." After quitting he goes to film the convention where he witnesses the police brutality towards the protesters. The movie is edited beautifully with real clips of the convention and also of the protest and riot outside. It shows the police using dogs, tanks and many other methods to stop the protesters. Through these devices it provides the viewer with images of the "bad" 1960's and also the power and morality of television. It is a very interesting movie to watch since it discusses both of these themes which we heard about in class and also shows clips of what was actually happening.

-Peter Lubershane

Sunday, November 11, 2007

FBI COINTELPRO

In another class (HIST362 - Historiography) I am writing a research prospectus on the FBI's COINTELPRO operations. Briefly - COINTELPRO, short for counterintelligence program, was a large covert operation "officially" undertaken by the FBI between 1956 and 1971 (some scholars say that COINTELPRO tactics were used as early as the beginning of the 20th century and are still being used today). This campaign targeted all dissident groups but had an especially devastating impact on African American political movements. Prominent groups such as the Black Panther Party, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and other anti-racist protesters were targets of COINTELPRO.

Special Agents were instructed to disrupt activist groups such as the Black Panthers to protect the security of the United States. Agents used four main tactics to disrupt the groups: 1) Infiltration, 2) Psychological warfare from the outside, 3) Harassment through the legal system, and 4) Extralegal force and violence (including murder).

If anyone is interested in COINTELPRO, please let me know. I would like to have a small discussion outside of class.

- Ethan Pickett

"Black is beautiful"

We spoke last Wednesday about the rise of the Black Power movement. Pauli Murray called it also "Black Liberation, and in its most extreme form, Revolutionary Black Nationalism"(395). The movement became a symbol of survival and self-respect through racial solidarity instead of the interracial cooperation of the "old" civil rights movement. Thus "Black and white together, we shall overcome" became "Black is beautiful." I was curious as to how people of mixed descent fit into the new binary system of civil rights: for example, Pauli Murray, as a woman of "mixed racial origins with all their Ishmaelite implications" (391). She wrote that since she grew up as one of only a few mixed children, she had to constantly prove herself- to her, "beauty is as beauty does." I would generalize these three quotes as, respectively, pride in humanity, pride in race, and pride in individualism. I'm curious to know what people think about these relationships.

Julie Zhao

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The City, 8 PM

Tonight at the Film Series, treat yourself to this stunning 1939 documentary. Produced for the Chicago World's Fair, this visual masterpiece "attempts to contrast the evils of the industrialized city with the idyllic conditions one finds in small-town America." This viewing will be accompanied by a live score played by the full Wesleyan Symphonic Orchestra and live narration. If you are looking for an evening of engaging cinema and quality musical performance, look no further.

Craig Ewer

Friday, November 9, 2007

Barry Goldwater's Advocacy for Gay Rights

I was looking for information about Hillary Clinton as a Goldwater Conservative and came across this article from the Washington Post - "Barry Goldwater's Left Turn" from July 1994. It provides interesting insight into the life of Goldwater, who was 85 at the time the article was written. The article includes Goldwater’s insight on various political figures, including Nixon, Bob Dole, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, often told with amusing personal anecdotes. Also discussed is Goldwater’s relationship with his second wife, thirty years his junior, and her supposed influence on his liberal actions.

"Barry Goldwater's Left Turn" focuses on Goldwater's initiatives in support of gay rights. Goldwater's strict interpretation of the Constitution led to his advocacy of gay rights, including the inclusion of gays in the military. He said, "You don't have to agree with it, but they have a constitutional right to be gay. And that's what brings me into it." In The Conscience of a Conservative, Goldwater defines a civil right as “a right that is asserted and is therefore protected by some valid law” (26). Thus, gay rights are civil rights under the Constitution, which prevents both the federal government and the state from denying the rights of individuals.

I think it's fascinating to think about the way that America’s definition of a Conservative has changed over time. Even in his advocacy for gay rights, Barry Goldwater’s strict interpretation of the Constitution showed that he was still very much a Conservative, yet this very interpretation led him to support the most liberal of causes. For Goldwater, it is not about whether a law is morally right or wrong, but about whether or not it is explicitly permitted in the Constitution. I am curious to hear other people's views on Goldwater's "turn to the left" and on his Conservatism.

You can find the article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/daily/may98/goldwater072894.htm

Rebecca Weiss

JFK Inaugural Address 1 of 2

How does this speech address the conservative tradition and attempt to make it consistent with a liberal, statist position?

JFK Inaugural Address 2 of 2

John F. Kennedy 1960 Television Political Ad

Barry Goldwater's Acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican Convention

Here is Barry Goldwater talking about himself, with images added by whomever posted this clip. The reference to "scandals" is -- I think -- a reference to LBJ's press aide, Walter Johnson, who had recently been arrested for solicitation in a Washington D.C. men's room.

"Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is No Vice" became the catchphrase of the campaign, and was a response to liberals in both parties referring to Goldwater and his supporters were extreme.

LBJ Daisy ad:

Dear all,

Here is the advertisement used against Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election. Part of its effectiveness is that it never used Goldwater's name, but obviously points to what Goldwater wrote about himself, that nuclear weapons would be part of a national defense in his administration.

It was only used once and might be regarded as an early instance of what we all now call "negative campaigning."

It still sends chills up my spine when I see it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Goldwater and Libertarianism

I know this a little late, but I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Goldwater’s conservatism and libertarianism. There are few of Goldwater’s ideas in the two main political parties, but many of his ideas are evident in the beliefs of many libertarians.

This summer I had an internship at a non-profit in Denver called Colorado Media Matters. I was responsible for listening to radical conservative talk radio and transcribing statements that sounded factually incorrect or inflammatory. Needless to say, it was a little rough, but I did get a good feeling for the political landscape of Colorado conservatives. One of the most telling things about my research was that many of the most right-wing conservatives aligned themselves with the Libertarian party. They were disenchanted by the big-government stance of Bush’s administration and were interested in a movement back to states’ rights and individual liberties. I picked up on a similar sentiment in Goldwater’s book. He advocates a weakened federal government and an increase in states’ rights. This is based on a strict constructionist view of the Constitution.

I think the movement towards a more centralized federal government by many conservatives has alienated some former members of the Republican Party. And, subsequently, I believe that Libertarianism has become the closest thing in modern politics to Goldwater’s ideal for the Republican Party. The insistence on lowered national taxes, fewer social give-away programs, and a lessening of governmental regulations are all ideas that both Goldwater and Libertarians share. It will be interesting to watch the 2008 elections to see if Republicans try to move back towards Goldwater’s idea of conservatism and whether Libertarians join forces with any of these new Republicans.

-Chase Parr

Sunday, November 4, 2007

George Jackson and Ayn Rand

Hey all,

So I wrote this while reading George Jackson since I was thinking about his economic and politic views in relation to his racial theories.

In my reading of George Jackson, especially in his espousal of the detriments of racism in capitalism, it seems that while he wants to disregard the capitalist system he is actually somewhat supporting Ayn Rand's theories on capitalism. Ayn Rand, of course, was a staunch proponent of laizze faire economics based on a market economy and Jackson, in my reading, does seem to be in favor of a form of fascism. At first they seemed like they would be opponents but in closer reading of Jackson's letter dated April 4, 1970 on page 233 and of Rand's diatribe in "Atlas Shrugged" via John Galt, they overlap in some of their theories, at least on racism in the government and economics. Rand argues against collectivism, unions and government intervention on the grounds that it slows down the economy and hurts free enterprise, as is shown through the governmental intervention towards one of her main characters in "Atlas Shrugged," the industrial powerhouse Hank Rearden. She continues though to say that for the economic independence she argues for to exist, there must be a moral code amongst businessmen to use only the most qualified and "best" workers and products in their industries. This caveat includes getting rid of racism in the economy and marketplace. This overlaps with George Jackson even though she doesn't specifically advocate for civil rights in "Atlas Shrugged" it is implied in later works that racial discrimination is unionism at it's lowest form. Jackson, possibly unwittingly even though his letters were written after Rand's book and he is a self proclaimed intellectual, supports this concept. He rages against capitalism calling it the "wrecker of worlds, scourge of the people" (p. 246) but then admits that his ideas come from the institutionalized racism in capitalism that his father succumbed to and he fights against. He expresses how capitalism caused the African Americans to fight against each other and how it keeps them down. He argues that a recession or depression is far worse for African Americans and it is the capitalist system that causes this through it's government endorsed racism. Rand's ideas are in opposition to almost all of Jackson's political theories, however, they are able to agree tacitly that racism is a bane on capitalism. Rand might think that it only is another hindrance of the government on the free market while Jackson might believe that it is a device of capitalism to push the African Americans even farther down. They are in agreement that racism is bad for capitalism. Who knows if Jackson would have become a proponent of fascism if the governmental racism hadn't been a factor in his arrest or his family's economic situation. He could have read "Atlas Shrugged" or "The Fountainhead" instead of Chairman Mao and Marx and let Rand's propagation of capitalism sway him in the absence of a racism system.

-Peter Lubershane

Saturday, November 3, 2007

In discussing Barry Goldwater last Monday, we touched on different interpretations of the Constitution used by different political parties/ideologies. Many Conservatives (at least the "real" Conservatives, according to Goldwater) believe in a literal reading of the Constitution, while Liberals generally hold a more flexible view. The "right to privacy," for example, is not explicitly stated in the document, but has been successfully argued as an inferred right in Roe v. Wade in 1973. To what degree should we assume that a new political era demands alterations in interpretations of laws? How valid is the argument that the founding fathers would have written the laws this way, had they known the situation today?

Another thing: every Amendment can be restated as a right to privacy (1st = "privacy of beliefs"; 3rd = "privacy of the home," etc.). This website goes more into detail about this. what do you think?

Julie Zhao