Tuesday, June 26, 2012

John Marhsall is watching you

Today I awoke at 8:45, which was great because I felt very refreshed. After getting dressed and organizing my dorm a bit, I went to John Jay and enjoyed breakfast with Lucas, Morvarid, Aurea, and Tomi. Then I went to class, ready for another day filled with law.

Jeffrey taught the morning session, and what we did was go over the briefs and Supreme Court cases we read last night. First, we discussed Federalist 10 and 51, both written by James Madison. Federalist 10 was mainly trying to persuade the public to support the baby Constitution. Federalist 51 gave suggestions on separation of power for the three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judiciary. We concluded that the legislative branch is the strongest, so it's divided into sub-sections that aren't connected.

Then we moved on to the very fun part: Supreme Court cases! We read three last night, one was a briefing and the other two were complete descriptions of the cases. What these three cases have in common is an issue of powers between the judicial and legislative branch.

In Marbury v. Madison, John Adams appointed Marbury as a Justice of Peace, but since his commission hadn't been delivered, new president Thomas Jefferson refused to recognize his position as a justice. Jefferson ordered Secretary of State Madison to withhold Marbury's commission. When Marbury discovered this, he sued Madison. While Marbury did not end up being a justice, this case is so important because it was the first time the Supreme Court declared a law unconstitutional. The judiciary act was declared illegal because it gave the Supreme Court authority that was denied by Article III of the constitution. The legal questions that pertain to this case are:

1. Is there a right to commission? (yes)
2. If yes, does the law help him? (yes)
3. IF yes, is it a writ of mandate? (no)

The next case was a briefing, Ex Parte McCardle. After the Civil War, Congress imposed a military government on many former confederate states as authority of Civil War reconstruction acts. This case was dismissed on grounds of wanted jurisdiction. The legal questions we came up with for this case were:

1. Does Congress have the power to question taking the Supreme Court's case? (yes)
2. Must the court have to review this case that already has jurisdiction? (yes)

The final case we read was McCulloch v. Maryland. Many states did not approve of the Banks of the United States, so Maryland decided to pave the way and set an example by imposing a tax on all banks not chartered by the state. Andrew McCulloch, who worked in a Baltimore bank, refused to pay the tax and Maryland sued him. This case "established principles that the federal government possesses broad powers to pass a number of types of laws and that states can't interfere with any federal agency imposing a direct tax on it." The legal questions we came up with for this case were:

1. Does Congress have the power to incorporate a bank? (yes)
2. If yes, can Maryland tax the bank? (no)

After class, I went to John Jay and ate lunch with Tomi, Morvarid, Aurea, Rowland (who is taking Presidential Powers, Demi (Morvarid's suitemate), and Joyce (Demi's friend). Rowland is from Los Angeles and took Constitutional Law last summer and is friends with Irene Tait and Eric Wang (ILCers who took the course last year). Demi is from Taiwan and is taking Biomedical Engineering. I didn't get to talk too much to Joyce but she was very sweet and is also from Taiwan. What I really love about this summer experience about Columbia is that I am meeting so many different people who are international students! My roommate is from Lebanon, three friends from my class are from Cairo, I met a boy with wonderful fashion sense who lives in Milan, Italy, I've had great conversations with girls from Turkey, and now I have friends from Taiwan and even Hong Kong.

After lunch, I went back to my dorm and took a quick nap before heading back to the afternoon session. This session was led by our other instructor, Luke. Aside from completing his 5th year in his PhD at Columbia, Luke is from Canada and is very interested in political theory. He led a discussion about interpretation of the constitution, which is very controversial seeing as though the constitution is very vague.  After the discussion, we watched two films:
  • Our Constitution: A Conversation with Supreme Court Justices - Two retired Supreme Court justices talked to a group of teenagers at an information session about the Supreme Court. They stated that the constitution was made because "everyone was arguing and needed to come together." The constitution provides a civilized way to solve problems and it lays out how to run a country. People can't live their lives if the law keeps changing and the constitution has lasted longer than any constitution in the world. We also learned that in terms of the Supreme Court picking a case based on merit, the merit of the case is the claim, not the person who submitted it.
  • The Supreme Court: One Nation Under Law - The Supreme Court is a human institution that speaks with a strong voice. At first, justices were unsure of how much power they had. Then, Chief Justice John Marshall came along and is credited as having "created the Supreme Court." John Marshall wanted to make the justices more comfortable with one another, so he had them live in the same boarding house and they shared meals and social gatherings with one another. Next fact! The Supreme Court was created in the late 1780's but wasn't established as a constitutional court until it was given reason to. All of the justices were federalists, and new president Thomas Jefferson hated them just as much as they hated him. Jefferson and the justices suffered many controversies with one another. While Marshall didn't fear Jefferson, he did fear the demagogic new president Andrew Jackson, who did what he wanted to "because he could." Marshall deemed Jackson's decision to exile the Cherokees on the "Trail of Tears" illegal and considered it one of "America's greatest tragedies." John Marshall died in the 1830s but left a lasting impression on America's justice system.
I found both of these films to be absolutely stimulating. It was also nice to take a break from lecturing and note-taking and use visual learning. We had three readings tonight, which I happily completed before starting this blog:
  • Youngstown & Tube Co v. Sawyer
  • Ex Parte Milligan 
  • Clinton v. Jones
So many notes!
Going to the concert!
After class, we had our meeting with Ms. L. We mainly went over textbook issues. I was thankful to wake up this morning with an email from my mom telling me she had ordered my textbook after reading my issue on my blog (thanks Mom!). We then went over the talk of residential trips. After much contemplation, Aurea, Morvarid, and I have decided to attend the FREE Maroon 5 concert in Central Park with an R.A. on Friday. The catch? It's at 5 in the morning. However, I think we are all willing to go to sleep very early on Thursday night to be able to see the concert. We're even planning an all-day trip to Times Square on Saturday with Tomi and others and also hope to see either Wicked or War House on Broadway. There are a million activities to do through Columbia.

After our meeting, Aurea, Morvarid, Tomi, and I ate dinner together and then separated to study. I stayed in my room and read up on the cases, and then later went with Aurea and Morvarid to do laundry. I'm happy to say that I was successful in doing my laundry, and a big thanks to Aurea to running around to get us coins! We also meet Myra, a Turkish girl who goes to school in Germany and Evan, who is taking Intro to Business and actually goes to Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek, which is only about forty minutes away from El Cerrito! It truly is a small world.

Now That's Just Lawful

Despite not having class until 10:00 AM, I woke up fairly early this morning. I spent the majority of my early  talking about last night's homework with my roommate and fellow Constitutional Law student, Lizzy. About half and hour later, we walked to class together.

Once again, Jeffery was our teacher of the morning. Class mainly focused reviewing and discussing last night's homework, which included cases and legal documents such as Federalist 10 and 51 and Ex Parte McCardle. While adjusting to Jeffery's fast paced teaching style was somewhat difficult, I was eventually able to do so and after two hours of note taking, class was dismissed for the morning. 

Instead of spending lunch studying alone, I decided to spend it with Adrianne, Aurea, Morvarid, and Morvarid's friends Joyce, Demi, and Rowland. While enjoying lunch, the girls and I (Rowland's an honorary girl!), decided that there were a few things that we had to do before we had to go back home, which included shopping and Times Square and watching a Broadway show. By the end of lunch, we decided to go shopping this Saturday and we narrowed down the Broadway show choices to the Wars Horse or Wicked. 

For our second session of class, it was Luke teaching us instead of Jeffery. Luke started the class of with a simple question--"What is interpretation?" When Luke announced our discussion topic, I was really excited to hear what my classmates had to say. As I said before, one of the reasons I'm so interested in constitutional law is to expose myself to different opinions and ideas. Being able to hear everyone's opinion so early into the course was something that I had not expected, and helped me become engaged with the class' conversation. Personally, I define interpretation as the viewpoint of a given subject, as shaped by a person's morals, background, and knowledge. 

As expected, my classmates' answers varied drastically. While I think of  the concept of interpretation as something without a definite answers, the majority of my classmates see it as something that does have correct answer--with that answer being dependent on the intent of the subject's creator. For example, a reader may interpret a poem about a warm summer day as a metaphor for the importance of relaxing. However, the poem's author comes forward and says that this poem is really about the ignorance of today's youth. Since this wasn't the poet's original intent, the reader's interpretation is wrong. 

The conversation then lead onto whether the Constitution was originally intended to be subject to interpretation. I briefly shared my opinion about how the framers--those who wrote the Constitution--may have intentionally left the Constitution vague to allow it to still be usable as society and technology continued to evolve. Somewhat surprisingly, not all of my classmates agreed with me; some argued that the framers did have a specific interpretation while drafting the Constitution, one that they intended to remain unchanged. In hindsight, it's somewhat ridiculous to think that we were arguing over our interpretations of interpreting!  

After our discussion, we watched two films. The first of the two was called "Our Constitution: A Conversation with Supreme Court Justices." As the title suggests, the film was a mock-interview between a small group of high school students and two court justices, Stephen G. Breyer and the now retired Sandra Day O'Connor. The two judges answered the students questions, which included everything from why the Constitution was created to whether a not the judges' morals ever interfered with their ability to correctly decide whether a law is constitutional or not. 

The other film, entitled "The Supreme Court: One Nation Under Law." Unlike the other film, this once was a documentary. One of the topics discussed in the movie included the 1803 Marbury v. Madison case, which also happened to be one of case briefs in last night's reading assignments. After the second film was over, class was over for the day. 

After class, I went with Adrianne to her dorm room to study for a while, and then went back to the courtyard for our daily meeting with Mrs. L. Today's meeting was very similar to yesterdays, with the only real differences being our discussion over our any trips we would like to go on, as well as the issue concerning my text book, which I will hopefully be getting tomorrow. After our meeting ended, the girls and I ate dinner together once again, but this time we enjoyed Chinese food in the cafeteria. 

When I returned to my room, I decided to return to my studying and quickly got to work. However, about an hour in I realized something; I was doing the wrong assignment. Frustrated, I decided to take a study break before resuming my work. After finishing my next assignment, I realized something else; I was doing the wrong work again. Sounds awful, doesn't it? After realizing my second mistake, I decided to give up for the night and wake up early in the morning to finish everything. Overall, I think that today was pretty nice day; I hope that tomorrow won't be as stressful as this evening!

Studying in Bushes

I finally got some sleep last night: about 8 hours. I would have liked more, but that was acceptable. I woke up at about 7:00 AM, when one of my suite-mates was heading to the gym, but I quickly fell asleep again. My alarm went off at 9:00, and for once, I didn't have to hit the snooze button. I gathered my stuff and headed to breakfast. John Jay, the Cafeteria, was much less crowded today. I sat with some guys from my dorm. It turns out, that we all wanted to go to the manhunt game tonight (I'll explain what that is, later). Before I took off for my class, I realized that I left the reader in my room. I hurried enough that I was able to finish eating, get it from my room and still be early for the lecture.

In case any one is wondering, the weather is awesome. It's cool and windy, with blue skies and big puffy clouds. Amazing, how the weather changes so quickly. A few days ago, that description would have been sarcasm.

The first half of class was pretty tough. I definitely should have spent less time on the Federalist articles and started on the cases, last night. Jeffrey's good at explaining things, but the discussion often gets side tracked. I'll just have study harder.

At lunch, I attended an ethics talk with Jimmy Xu, an Australian from my dorm. We sat with about 25 other people on the steps in front of Hamilton hall, and joined in a discussion led by Valerian, a political-science major and RA. The forum focused on utilitarianism and "what would you do?" type scenarios. Lincoln-Douglas debate and my philosophy class last summer prepared me well for it, but everyone had something interesting to say. I think I'll attend the one next week, too.

The second half of class was lead by Mike, the other teacher. Because all parts of the Constitution are open for interpretation, we had a brief discussion on what "interpretation" means. It turns out that there are many different interpretations of interpretation, in our class. We then watched too brief documentaries. The first was footage of students interviewing Supreme Court judges on the Constitution. The second, was the first episode of a PBS series on the history of the Supreme Court.

I talked to a girl from my class on the elevator this morning. It turns out she's switching to the class, Leadership in Law, so she doesn't need her text book anymore. I bought it from her right after we got out.

We met with Ms. L again, at 4:30 PM. Looks like everyone's having a good time, too.

I ate dinner in the cafeteria with Bryan and Brian, students from the same school in China. We were quickly joined by Bryant, who I had met at the ethics talk: small world.

After my meal, I went back to my dorm, and spent ten minutes hunting down and brutally murdering a fly: time well spent. With the distraction dead, I started studying.

From 8-10:00, I played manhunt with about 300 students and RAs. It was basically just a massive game of hide-and-go-seek, but with teams. I spent about 15 minutes hiding in a bush, talking to people on my team. It was a ton of fun; I'll definitely play again next time.

Well, that's basically all I did today. I'll go back to reading as soon as I'm done writing this.

James Madison

Of the four of us sharing the same shower, I was lucky enough to get the latest shower time in the morning, and as a result, I only have to wake up at about 8:45-9 to be on time for class. Starting class at 10 AM is something I could seriously get used to; it is an entirely new feeling to me to go to class in the morning feeling well-rested.
That being said, I wasn’t as well-rested as I could’ve been; our homework took about double the time I thought it would and I was up much later than I thought I would be. It was a reading/note-taking assignment for discussion the next day (earlier today) in class; so basically, you get out of it what you put into it. While I stayed up late, I feel I put quite a bit of effort into my work, and as a result, I was one of the kids most frequently raising my hand during class to speak. I sit in the back row of the class, which I’m not too huge a fan of, but because I worked hard on the homework, participating in our class’ review and analysis of the reading was very easy. In addition to the structure of the class and how it works, I am also really enjoying the class material (A copy of last year’s class syllabus, which is similar but not identical: http://www.columbia.edu/~ktr2102/constitutional%20law%20syllabus%20summer%202011%20revised.pdf ).
View from the spot I was studying at in between my classes.
While I have read the Federalist Papers before, I didn’t interpret it then in the same way I did yesterday/today, and it was striking to me how James Madison’s Federalist Papers, written over 200 years ago, he was absolutely spot on with his analysis of the roles of government and factions in society, and how they are affected by simple human nature. He expresses his concern for the fact that the public good is sometimes disregarded in conflicts of rival parties, which sounds strikingly similar to today’s situation in Congress. In fact, while he may not have been aware of it, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell openly admitted to it, saying “Our TOP political priority over the next two years should be to DENY PRESIDENT OBAMA a second term.” I put those words in capitals to emphasize the parts that matter. Anyway, McConnell is saying that, rather than focusing on what’s best for the public good, the priority he feels, should be for his party to deny the rival party another presidency. The priority isn’t the economy; that doesn’t matter right now (extreme sarcasm). Anyway, this quote is a perfect example of Madison’s concerns becoming true over 200 years later. Another example could be Madison’s concern that smaller government allows factions to have considerably more power, putting minority groups at much more risk of being overrun by the majority. A perfect example of this can be seen in Arizona’s controversial immigration law, which was just yesterday was overturned (most of the law) by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional. Just as Madison had said, too small an electorate allowed a majority faction to try to restrict the freedom of the minority, although thankfully, the Supreme Court swooped in to rule it unconstitutional. Basically, though, I am really enjoying what I am learning and I can easily apply it to situations in society today.

The spot outside the Low Library I was studying at in
between my classes
In our second class, we watched two videos about some of the history of our government and about the role of the Constitution in a changing society, sort of to help our understanding of what we had read about and discussed in the first class. We also had a class discussion about the interpretation of the Constitution, such as, in what way we should interpret it, how our Founding Fathers intended for us to interpret it, or they even wanted us to consider their intentions.

Our cohort meeting after our second classes
After class, our cohort met up again to go over the day, how it went and if there were any problems. While I don’t room near any of them, I see everyone multiple times every day; it’s not so bad. After our meeting, I joined a group of multiple RAs (Resident Assistants? I have no idea what it stands for) and tons of students, and we went to Central Park. I knew only a few kids, but I made many more friends before we got back. Now I’m back, and it’s time for homework. To wrap this up, though, today was another fun day in and out of class, with many new friends.

Calm Day In a Roaring City

Every single day so far I've been I've met a variety of different people. Today in class, we had a new student from Southern California, his name was Rowland. He's actually the first person I've met that is from California so I was really excited about that! Aside from him, I m a lot of other students from Portugal, Turkey, Spain, and Korea. I might have not been as social the past two days, but at least I can proudly say that I've had a nice experience meeting a ton of different people.

This morning I planned to run with Aurea and exercise before the start of class, but when I woke up I was so tired that I just decided to go over my reading instead to make sure I'm ready for our discussion seminar. I still met up with her for breakfast though, and we just both walked together to class after we were done eating. However, we ran into a little bit of trouble. Not literally, so I guess a better word for this would be "inconvenience."

Like I've said in my previous blog post, the path to our first session in Schermerhorn is through an extension hallway on the sixth floor. Unlike yesterday, we did not have problems finding the room since we remembered how to get there, but the door to the extension hallway was locked! Keep in mind that it was five minutes before class started and I am not someone who shows up late anywhere.
I started panicking and I asked the janitor how I can get to my classroom, hoping she would open the door for me and allow me to enter. Unfortunately, she instead told us to go on the 9th floor and take the exclusive elevator to the extension hallway. It sounded quite bizarre to go from the 6th floor, to the 9th, then take an elevator back to the 6th, but that was the only way to get to class. With no other choice, Aurea and I rushed ourselves towards the elevator planning to do exactly what the janitor had advised us. By now, we only had 3 or 4 minutes left until class started.

I looked at the numbering on the side of the elevator to make sure it was going up first, and to my surprise my heart just dropped. The elevator first went down...
It went to the 4th floor first, i believe, and it actually turned out to be for our professor! I noticed him pressing the 6th floor button so I quickly said, "Hi Professor, we were just on the 6th floor but the extension hall was closed, we must all go through the 9th floor to access our class." By the time I was done explaining, the door to the 6th floor opened and he was already making his way out. I didn't know whether to follow him back onto the 6th floor or not, due to the fact that we were just so sure the door was locked shut! So Aurea and I decided to just proceed to the 9th floor like we were told and felt very accomplished after reaching our room within a minute. Although we had felt like we had arrived sooner than everyone else, we were surprised to open the door and see the professor already in the room! I was jaw-dropped. He asked us, "Why didn't you guys just follow me?" To be honest, I no longer knew what to say...

Regardless, we did not waste time and hurried right to work. We first began reviewing common grammatical errors, and later initiated our discussions about yesterday's readings. I tried to participate as much as I could and contribute, but I also wanted to make sure I heard what others had to say as well. Overall, we had a nice discussion and it seemed like everyone understood the article and the writer's motive. Once everyone had a chance to talk, professor Porwancher called time and told us to back our stuff and get ready to visit the Lehman library for a meeting with one of the librarians. There, the librarian taught us how to use access some of the resources provided to us for our research. I took took notes rapidly to make sure I would not forget and I'm quite proud that I did because they turned out pretty useful!

After the tutorial sessions, Aurea, Demmie, Rowland, Adrianne, Tomi, Joyce, and I went for lunch. There, one of the RA's invited me to a Maroon 5 concert! I am so excited about it because Maroon 5 is one of my favorite bands of all time! I actually wanted to go to their concert before coming to Columbia but it was way too expensive, and way too far. Good thing I didn't go because this one is FREE! Friday will be a very fun day, I'm so excited!

After lunch, Aurea and I worked a little bit on our blog and headed back to the library for our second session. There we did some more research trying to finally decide what we would like to write about for our research paper. I have to have my mind set by tomorrow, but I'm still not 100% sure what topic is best. Once I chose, I will post it here on my blog and share it with readers, but for now I'm not quite sure yet.
The session was two hours, like usual, and we met with Mrs.L to talk about our day. It was a very casual conversation that ended shortly so Lucas would not miss his trip to Central Park. As soon as it finished, we just walked into Jay Hall to eat dinner and then go back to our rooms to finish our school work.  I will be doing laundry later tonight, but I definitely don't have anything planned out aside from deciding on the topic of my research paper. None of my roommates are home right now, but it's only the third day we're here so hopefully I'll start going out more as of tomorrow. Until then, I have lots of work to do because I'm planning on sleeping early to catch up on my sleep! So time to officially get to work and read "The Art of Presidential Leadership: George Washington and the Jay Treaty."

Study Session in Lehman Library

Who wouldn't want to run around here in the morning?

I’ve finally schedule a routine for myself for the three weeks I will be spending here in Columbia University. Every morning, I plan to run around campus for a while to explore and familiarize myself with the college. So today at 8 AM, I jogged from one end of the grounds to another. From my morning run today, I have seen most of the main Columbia Square, located between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway. I even delved further outside to see Barnard College across from the main buildings.

Following my, hopefully, daily run was breakfast with Morvarid, Adrianne, and Lucas. We all talked about how our classes were going so far and our professors. When we finished breakfast, we decided to catch up on last night’s assignment to refresh our memory on the readings we all did last night. About fifteen minutes before class, we all went our separate ways to start our morning sessions. Unfortunately for Morvarid and me, the extension to the Schemerhorn building was locked and we could not enter. We went up to the ninth floor for the building, entered the extension there, and descended down via elevator to our class. Let’s just say, we did not arrive as promptly as we expected. But fortunately, the class was just about to begin.

During class we discussed a packet we had to read last night, “The Fable of the Allegory: The Wizard of Oz in Economics.” We analyzed and discussed the purpose of the research paper by Bradley Hansen. The paper qualifies the argument that “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” does not have enough information to prove and disprove it’s relation to the Populist Party. Although there are a few striking similarities, such as the number count of seven and three, the amount of information from the story is inadequate. In conclusion, the allegory is in no way related to story.

Inside the Lehman Library
After our one hour discussion, we trekked to the Lehman Library to learn about the protocols and rules. Mr. Breeze gave us a tutorial on where to look online to help our researching easier. He showed us where to find different documents, ranging from presidential papers to electronic books on executive orders.

When our first block ended, Morvarid and I headed to the dining hall for lunch. We even had lunch with a new friend, named Rowland, who we met during our Presidential Powers class. He’s actually from California, albeit the southern part.

Once lunch ended, it was back to class. Rowland, Morvarid, and I headed to Butler Library to start our second block. There we met with another Presidential Powers classmate and grouped together to research for our papers. This part of the class is more independent study, which is good for us when we have to write those ten thousand word essays. During my study, I read the reply from my past AP U.S. History teacher, who gave me advice on developing my topic. And thank the heavens that he did or I would be completely lost by now. My topic will now be how events outside the real control of a president affects said presidents’ legacies. Pretty good? Well I hope so.

Our second class finally ended and then Morvarid and I met up with Ms. L and the others for our daily meeting. Today we discussed the textbook issues the Constitutional Law people are having as well as permission to go out to a few of the events we have signed up. So far, we signed up to see Maroon 5 at Central Park on Friday morning and possibly a Broadway play. Hopefully we’ll all find more events to go to as the week progresses. And now, some quality time with the U.S. Constitution and “The Art of Presidential Leadership: George Washington and the Jay Treaty” awaits me.