AP US Government Homework

Big Think Pieces

How American Politics Went Insane


Are We All Unconscious Racists?


America's First Addiction Epidemic


Homework (No Number)

Read Remy, pp. 198-203


When Republicans took control of the House and Senate in 2010, they banned earmarks.  Read this (year old Washington Post) article defending earmarks and asking for their return.


For Discussion: Should earmarks, also known as pork, be returned to the House?


-Due Thursday, October 19th



Trump is afraid that his tax plan is doomed. He should be.

Colin Kaepernick is not good enough to win his collusion suit against the NFL.

The end of an era in California politics?

Homework (No Number)

Read Remy, pp. 194-198


For Discussion: If anything, do constituents have too much influence on their members?




Here is a really fantastic interactive budget, though it is based on the 2010 fiscal year.  It focuses on how small a percentage of the budget is discretionary non-defense spending. Unfortunately, it's in Flash, so you might have to use an old browser...


Optional Reading

Richard Fenno is a political scientist who became famous through his exploration of how members of Congress act in their home districts and how these actions aid in their reelection.  He wrote a book called Home Style on these matters, but the book grew out of an academic article entitled House Members in Their Constituencies: An ExplorationHere's the article--it's great; but its not required.



From Carson to Kimmel: the collapse of the late night empire.

How Ta-Nehisi Coates gives whiteness power.

The GOP is no party for honest men.

...and meet your new robot overlords!


-Due Wednesday, October 18th

Homework (No Number)

Read Remy, pp. 189-192. Also, here is a great article about the way that the Senate circumvents the requirement that the House pass tax legislation first.


For Discussion: To what extent is it fair to argue that the federal government spends too much money?


Also, here's the study sheet for Test 2.



-Due Tuesday, October 17th



What's behind Trump's recent executive actions.

How to fight the new Trumpcare.

Jeff Flake's lesson for Republicans: Cross Trump at your own risk.



Bonus Graphics

A great graphic design visualization of how a bill becomes a law.


The North Carolina gerrymander

Homework 14

Read Remy, pp. 181-188


Written Work: Have the founders created an overly cumbersome legislative process?  Or should it be easier to make a bill into a law?



Trump deals a stunning blow to Obamacare. Polls, pundits still underestimating Trump. The fractured GOP.



-Due Monday, October 16th

Homework (No Number)

Read Remy, pp. 172-176


FOR DISCUSSION ONLY: Given the breakdown in communication between Congress and the President, should reforms be undertaken to improve this relationship?  Can they?



Democrats are playing checkers while Trump is playing chess? How Elizabeth Warren became the soul of the Democratic party.  Steve Bannon's enemy isn't the Republican Party...it's Donald Trump.



-Due Friday, October 13th



The Useless Web

Homework 13

Read Remy, pp. 167-171. 


The reading spoke about the practice of legislative oversight, and also how limited it is.  Scholars Matthew McCubbins and Thomas Schwartz published a very influential defense of Congress in their 1984 piece "Congressional Oversight Overlooked: Police Patrols versus Fire Alarms." (PDF)  Please check it out.


Written Work: Do you agree with McCubbins and Schwartz? Why or why not? Explain.



What Bob Corker really fears. Are European leaders committing mass suicide? Either take the border seriously or no deal on Dreamers.


-Due Thursday, October 12th

Homework 12

Read Remy, pp. 157-165


THE COMMERCE CLAUSE! Read the opinion of the Supreme Court in the 1942 case Wickard v. Filburn.  Also, please watch this video from Reason Magazine on this issue--Wheat, Weed and Obamacare. Note that Reason has a strong libertarian bias--they are affiliated with the Cato Institute.  Note, as an opposing point of view, that it was via the commerce clause that the Civil Rights Act was applied to private businesses.


Written Work: Has Congress overstepped its bounds when interpreting the commerce clause? 



"This is the America We Deserve." Are the Democrats going to blow their chance to defeat Trump with a McGovern Redux? Also, the "Vicious Virtue" of Hollywood liberal.


-Due Wednesday, October 11th

Homework (No Number)

Read Remy, pp. 146-150


Check out this article on the powers and responsibilities of Congressional Staffs. 


Also, check out Legistorm--a website that shows all of the staffers in Washington and their salaries. If you're challenged to log in, I have created an account for the class:


username: stuystudent

password: imastuystudent


Here is a link to the staff of Senator Schumer--note that there are two such pay periods, so the numbers you see can be multiplied by two to see what yearly salary the staffer makes.  And here is a link to the salaries of the staffers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee--the committee fought over by Waxman and Dingell.  Note that there are four pay periods in the House, so to determine yearly salaries, multiply the numbers you see by four.


FOR DISCUSSION ONLY: "Members of Congress have become cripplingly over-reliant on their staffs. Staff budgets must be slashed in order to force our legislators to do the work for which they were elected."  Do you agree or disagree with this quote?  What do you think?



Some Big Think articles for the long break.  "Democrats can abandon the center--because the center doesn't exist." "American wasn't built for humans."



-Due Tuesday, October 10th

Homework (No Number)

Read Remy, pp. 141-145


Also, check out this article from the New York Times about the struggle for control of the House Energy and Commerce Committee between auto industry advocate John Dingell and environmental activist Henry Waxman. Also look at this piece about the Senate finance committee.


FOR DISCUSSION ONLY: Do committee chairs have too much power?  Why or why not?



-Due Friday, October 6th



"We don't need your prayers in Las Vegas. We need gun control." "Democrats have no idea how to prevent mass shooting." Would the GOP legislature actually vote to ban bump stocks?



Optional Multimedia

Fascinating audio piece that asks: Why do we blink?

Homework 11

Read Remy, pp. 138-140


Also, please read this blog entry by enormously prolific Judge Richard Posner on the filibuster.


Should the filibuster be abolished?


-Due Thursday, October 5th




Why gun control is a losing issue for the Democrats. Gerrymandering has broken our democracy! ... or do the Democrats just want to ensure themselves a constitutional right to win elections?




Optional Stuff

Interesting piece on procrastination from the New Yorker.  Read it AFTER you finish the homework...

Amazing mashups (of Youtubers) by Kutiman and (of Muppets) by Pogo.

Homework 10

Read Remy, pp. 132-137


Also, click on this link to the web site of the radio program "This American Life." I want you to listen to a segment about life in the minority in the House of Representatives called "Bully's Pulpit"--it comes 42 minutes into the show and is about 13 minutes long. (Note: it might take a couple of minutes for the program to load in its entirety)  If you want to save it, you can right click on the link and download the mp3 to play on your cell phone or whatever.


Written Work: To what extent is the House is too dominated by the majority party? Should anything be done to change this?



There  can be no truce with the second amendment says Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker. Well, stop politicizing mass shootings says David Harsanyi of The Federalist.



Behold the amazing hexaflexagon!



-Due Wednesday, October 4th

Homework (No Number)

There is no written work, but do the reading and be prepared to discuss the question below.

Read Remy, pp. 123-130


1. Read this (somewhat old) article by Jeffrey Toobin about the increasingly sophisticated techniques behind gerrymandering.

2. Read this piece about the Supreme Court case about to happen on this very issue!

3. For fun, check out this website that lets you create your own gerrymandered districts.  Wow!


FOR DISCUSSION ONLY: Has gerrymandering made a mockery of the House of Representatives?  What realistic solutions are there to the problems that Toobin explains?



ALSO: Richard Feynman explains why rubber bands work. Fascinating stuff.


-Due Tuesday, October 3rd

Homework (No Number)

Read Remy, pp. 112-116. Also, check out this article from the New York Times from a couple of years ago.


FOR DISCUSSION ONLY: Given the tremendously low turnout in local elections, to what extent should we be worried about our federalist system?


-Due Thursday, September 28th





Is there actually any point to protesting? "I used to sit for the national anthem too." Alabama insurgent victory spells trouble for establishment GOP?




Best underwater photos of the year.


Funniest 30 seconds of a country music video ever.

Homework (No Number)

Read Remy, pp. 106-110


“States' rights, as our forefathers conceived it, was a protection of the right of the individual citizen. Those who preach most frequently about states' rights today are not seeking the protection of the individual citizen, but his exploitation. . . . The time is long past - if indeed it ever existed - when we should permit the noble concept of States' rights to be betrayed and corrupted into a slogan to hide the bald denial of American rights, of civil rights, and of human rights.” --Robert Kennedy


FOR DISCUSSION ONLY: Do you agree or disagree with this quote?  Note that today, some states are more progressive than the nation as a whole, passing laws legalizing marijuana use, same sex marriage and imposing tighter restrictions on industrial pollution and emissions.


-Due Wednesday, September 27th




Here is the study sheet for this Friday's test.



The madman theory of North Korea. 10 years in jail, but still awaiting trial.  The secret of Angela Merkel's longevity--flip flops. (thanks to Max Lobel and Daniel Ju for the links)


Optional Stuff

Impressed by the eloquence of Justice Antonin Scalia, but hate his conservative opinions?  Here's a roundup of some of the times that he sided with liberals--or at least civil libertarians.


Now that the UK has seen off Scottish independence, it still faces the threat of Devo Max!

Homework 9

Read Remy, pp. 103-105



To what extent is it fair that state universities charge out-of-state students more tuition?  Explain your reasoning!



-Due Tuesday, September 26th



The NFL won't forget September 24, 2017 anytime soon.   Alabama's curious special election. And the politicization of everything.



Optional Reading

What is it really like to be a baby?

This is a pretty cool video.

Homework 8

Please read Remy, pp. 95-102. Then check out this critique, which calls our sacred national document imbecilic.


To what extent is our constitution "imbecilic"?



-Due Monday, September 25th



Ta-Nehisi Coates and the politics of contempt.  The FBI tap on Manafort is a big deal. Is Chuck Schumer having too much fun with Donald Trump?

Homework 7

Read Remy, pp. 84-90. Also, read this 2012 piece that argues that it's too hard to amend our Constitution.


If you could add any amendment to the US Constitution, what would it be and why?


Due Wednesday, September 20th



What happened on Election Day?  American's political axis tilted. How long will Trump keep swimming with the Democrats? Don't buy all the PR-style hooey about "dreamers."



Optional Stuff

Amazing Japanese mochi making.

Homework 6



Take a look at these failed amendments and these proposed amendments.


Also, please read James Madison's Federalist 10 and 51


Finally--here's a fantastic site that allows you to explore the ratification of the Constitution in depth.


Did the Founding Fathers make the Constitution too difficult to amend?  What do you think of the amendment process in general?  Did seeing the failed or proposed amendments change your mind? Explain.


Also: for those who are curious to see James Madison's notes of the Philadelphia Convention, they can be found here.


-Due Tuesday, September 19th



What's up DACA?  What will conservatives think about Trump's contortions on the issue? The strange case of Donald Trump and the missing infrastructure. Is Bernie Sanders leading the Democratic party off a cliff?


Optional Reading

Here's an interesting map of the United States with 50 new states--all with more or less equal population.

Homework 5

Read Remy, pp. 63-67.   Also check out this review of Robert Dahl's book "How Democratic Is the American Constitution", written by Hendrick Hertzberg (the editorial editor at the New Yorker magazine). Finally, THE CONSTITUTION. Read it in FULL! Get thee to the interactive Constitution. Even if you do have a physical copy, the site is worth a visit.


Written work: Pick an article from the Interactive Constitution article and creatively disagree with it.



Trump agreed with Democrats to pass DACA protections into law last night... or did he? Hillary Clinton looks back in anger. Maybe changing demographics of the United States don't favor the Democrats after all?


-Due Friday, September 16th


Optional Reading

Proof that my no laptop policy is awesome?

Drilling. It kills your desire to learn... doesn't it?

Why are some languages faster than others?

"No Evidence of Disease"--this is a hell of a story.

Homework 4 

Read Remy, pp. 53-58.  Also read this article about the Constitutional Convention.


Here's a quote from famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, on the Constitution:


There is much declamation about the sacredness of the compact which was formed between the free and slave states, on the adoption of the Constitution. A sacred compact, forsooth! We pronounce it the most bloody and heaven-daring arrangement ever made by men for the continuance and protection of a system of the most atrocious villany ever exhibited on earth. Yes—we recognize the compact, but with feelings of shame and indignation, and it will be held in everlasting infamy by the friends of justice and humanity throughout the world. It was a compact formed at the sacrifice of the bodies and souls of millions of our race, for the sake of achieving a political object—an unblushing and monstrous coalition to do evil that good might come. Such a compact was, in the nature of things and according to the law of God, null and void from the beginning. No body of men ever had the right to guarantee the holding of human beings in bondage. Who or what were the framers of our government, that they should dare confirm and authorise such high-handed villany—such flagrant robbery of the inalienable rights of man—such a glaring violation of all the precepts and injunctions of the gospel—such a savage war upon a sixth part of our whole population?—They were men, like ourselves—as fallible, as sinful, as weak, as ourselves. By the infamous bargain which they made between themselves, they virtually dethroned the Most High God, and trampled beneath their feet their own solemn and heaven-attested Declaration, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights—among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They had no lawful power to bind themselves, or their posterity, for one hour—for one moment—by such an unholy alliance. It was not valid then—it is not valid now. Still they persisted in maintaining it—and still do their successors, the people of Massachusetts, of New-England, and of the twelve free States, persist in maintaining it. A sacred compact! A sacred compact! What, then, is wicked and ignominious?


Do you agree or disagree with the above quote?  If you do agree, were there any alternatives? What do you think?


-Due Thursday, September 14th


OTHER POLITICS NEWS: Trump has stabbed the GOP in the back--will it be worth it? Single-payer health insurance--a bad idea that Democrats love. And why legal efforts to Mideast peace are misguided.

Homework 3

Read Remy, pp. 48-52.  Also read the Articles of Confederation. These also can be found in the back of our textbook (pp. 808-811).  Also, read this article comparing the European Union to the Articles.


1) To what extent were the Articles of Confederation totally unworkable as a blueprint for the new nation?


2) Analyze at least one article in the Articles for HW.  Show why it's a good or bad idea.


OTHER POLITICS NEWS: Long and well-written New Yorker piece about possible nuclear war with with North Korea. Do retiring Republican representatives augur well for a Democratic takeover of the House? And is it time to restrict the President's power to wage nuclear war?



-Due Wednesday, September 13th

Homework 2

Read Remy, pp. 42-7 and the Declaration of Independence found at pp. 770-773.


Also, check out this piece about the impact of the Declaration in early US history


To what extent did the United States live up to the revolutionary ideals of the Declaration of Independence? Should it have?


ALSO: Former George W. Bush advisor writes (originally in the Wall Street Journal) about Obama's "Deplorable DACA Decision," while former Obama Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano explains "Why I'm suing the Trump administration over DACA."


-Due Tuesday, September 12th


Optional Stuff

Two pieces from Vox: (1) 38 Maps that Explain the Global Economy and (2) How to Win a Nuclear Standoff.

Homework 1

Two broad assignments for Monday:


Assignment 1

1) Make sure you have a Dropbox account!


2) Share a folder with me.  The format should be as follows:  If your name were Joe Biden and you were in my 3rd period AP US Gov class, the folder would be entitled: Joe Biden, 3.  My e-mail address for sharing is mpolazzo@gmail.com


3) Upload a headshot (not a whole body picture) of yourself that (a) is not too large and (b) actually looks like you. Place it in the shared folder. Name it joebiden.jpg (substitute your first and last names).  Please note that all headshots should be in JPEG form!


4) All uploaded data is due by the start of the period that I teach you on Monday!


Assignment 2

We are beginning to use the textbook, henceforth known as "Remy."  Read pp. 35-40.  Also, take a look at these excerpts from John Locke's Second Treatise of Government. 


Written work: What do you think of Locke's work?  What are his hypotheses and do you agree with them?  Why?


What format should this work be in?  It should be:

1) In PDF form.  You should be able to use Word or any other word processing software to save as PDF. Also Macs and some other programs allow you to print to PDF.  Also, Google Docs allows you to save as a PDF. PLEASE NOTE THAT HOMEWORK SUBMITTED IN .DOC OR .DOCX FORM IS NOT GRADABLE!

2) Double spaced

3) No longer than two, but no shorter than one page.

4) Titled "HW 1, John Smith" if your name were John Smith

5) Uploaded into our shared Dropbox account by the start of class  tomorrow.


AND: Current events coverage! Why did Trump cave to Schumer and Pelosi? Why North Korea is a black hole for American spies. And is Trump right to want to eliminate the debt ceiling?


-Everything Due Monday, September 11th



Optional Stuff

Here is a short George Orwell essay about good writing: "Politics and the English Language." Let it be your guide.


Here are some fascinating charts.  Curious about where the federal budget goes?  This chart by Death and Taxes is a nice graphical representation here (I know they are trying to sell the poster, but you can still look at all the spending and taxes using the magnifier tool).


Also: want to engage in a bit of military procurement through the Department of Defense?  No problem!  Simply master this organizational chart.


Wait... one last thing!

I'm not usually one to post scholarship stuff, but this one seems pretty good: the Jack Kent Cook foundation pays $40,000 a year and is for seniors with some financial need. Here's a link with more info--though the application process doesn't open until Thursday, September 14th


Please go to this form and enter in your information!


-Due Friday, September 8th