Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dead On My Feet

Its the end of day two of class and I am beat.

I suppose a large chunk of this tiredness must be attributed to the fire drill from this morning. Rather an unkind trick of the University, I thought, waking students up with ringing bells and shrieking alarms after their first night of staying up late to finish their homework; but I suppose it was planned in advance to make sure everyone knew at least what they would have to do in a real emergency. Or at least how to recognize the alarm: I was convinced it was a dream, then that my phone alarm was going off, and it took my fuzzy brain a good two minutes to figure out what this incessant noise meant. I also hadn't planned on being awake for almost another two hours, so it did cut my sleep short (all situations normal here then).

A quick run to the nearby Starbucks with Will and breakfast with the other ILCers raised my spirits as well as lifted the morning fog from inside my head, and I was ready for class. For last night's homework we had been asked to read Federalist papers 10 (dealing with the power of factions and the tyranny of the majority) and 51 (discussing checks and balances and the reasons for separation), as well as two Supreme Court opinions by John Marshall, the first justice to really bring the Supreme Court any power or recognition, as well as one other document from our reader. I must admit that a large part of the information went unprocessed by my brain due to the late hour when I finished, but we discussed all five readings in our morning class and now I'm very confident I understand the importance and legal theory behind each document.

Lunch was quiet today; snag some lunch from the dining hall (the food is actually pretty good; I haven't had that delicious a grilled cheese sandwich in years!) and mosey on over to a stationary store to scope out possible ID holders with no lunch before heading early to the afternoon class.

Constitutional Law this afternoon was very mellow: we watched three videos and took notes, though I was not the only one feeling the temptation to nod off as the third video seemed to drag on. The first two were conversations between justices: O'Connor and Breyer in the more sedate first set, followed by a more heated debate between Scalia and again Breyer. The first conversation had to do with why the government was set up in the way it was, as well as explaining difference in O'Connor and Breyer's opinions: Breyer favored a stronger and more centralized version of government to encourage unity and limit confusion through uniformity, while O'Connor championed the smaller courts and legislative bodies of local and state government as being better suited to deal with the real issues of the people in each area that would arise. The second conversation was quite the jousting match. Coming into this program, I favored a more evolutionary view (thought I did not know the term for it until today) of the Constitution, as Breyer does, meaning that the interpretation of the Constitution should be based in today's society, not a two-hundred-year-old idea that may not hold true anymore, and that the document's interpretation should evolve over time along with society. But as the conversation (which turned into a debate) progressed, I became more and more impressed with Scalia's “originalist” view and lens for interpretation. He rested the power to add or change laws with the elected representatives in the legislature, meaning that the Supreme Court's only purpose was to declare laws unconstitutional. His example was capital punishment: thought he did not voice his own private opinion on the issue, he explained that the amendment that prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment” was written during a period of time when capital punishment was very usual and common, and therefore the Court had no legal (not moral, ethical, or political; the difference is very important when dealing with law) jurisdiction to define the death penalty as “cruel and unusual punishment” unless an amendment was ratified that made capital punishment thoroughly illegal. Scalia argued (successfully, in my opinion) that the Court had no right to impose its own values upon the law unless the justices were elected and not appointed. The last video told us more about the story of John Marshall, the chief justice who essentially gave the Supreme Court teeth and respect.

After class was our daily check-in with Mrs. L, dinner, and a quick trip down to SoHo (the neighborhood south of Houston Street) for some wonderfully touristy shopping. It was a fun trip with all the ILCers except Will, who had stayed holed up in the library to diligently continue his research for his paper, and an experience in how to transfer between trains in New York City. I was greeted at my return to the dorm with cupcakes, as it was one of my suite-mate's birthday today and we had a little makeshift party for her before heading off to bed.

Mrs. L has asked us to focus on water and sleep for the next few days so we can take care of ourselves properly, and armed with a water bottle I'm about ready to hit the sack.

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