AMST 250—FALL 2009



Colin S. Cavell, Ph.D.                                                                                                   Course Room No.:  S17-229

Class MW:  9:30-10:45                                                                                     INTERNET:

Office Hours:  By appointment                                                                                                Office No.:  S17-263

VOICE:  17438775 (W)                                                                                                                           39631156 (H)


A descriptive survey of the constitutional and structural principles, processes and functions of the American governmental system, along with an examination of major political institutions


Grading Policy:  20% for Attendance*; 20% for the Class Presentation; 20% for the Midterm Exam; 20% for the Research Paper; and 20% for the Final Exam. A Guidelines sheet will be distributed outlining the requirements for your Class Presentation and for your Research Paper.


Grading Scale:  93-100=A; 90-92=A-; 88-89=B+; 83-87=B; 80-82=B-; 78-79=C+; 73-77=C; 70-72=C-; 68-69=D+; 63-67=D; 60-62=D-; 0-59=F


Attendance Policy*:  Attendance in class is mandatory.  It is the student’s responsibility to sign the attendance sheet each day of class; failure to sign the attendance sheet—even if in attendance—will be counted as an absence.  If your unexcused absences exceed 25% of the total number of lectures of the course in this semester, you will be automatically withdrawn from the course and be given a grade of (WF) which will be counted towards your GPA.  As well, you are expected to follow the syllabus and accordingly be prepared for each day's class.  This means that you must read the pre-assigned readings before class so that you will be prepared to discuss and debate in class the subject matter scheduled for that day and answer questions related to the issues being covered.


* Absence from class may be made up by preparing a two-page, typed (i.e. using maximum 12 point font size and maximum double-spaced text with one-inch margin on all sides), summary on the missed material scheduled to be covered the day(s) of your absence.  The summary must be in your own words and must not be copied material from the text(s), the internet, or any other source(s).   All summaries must be turned in to me by the last day of classes if you want credit for your absences.


Cell Phone Policy:  TURN OFF all cell phones during class.  Any student whose cell phone rings, sounds alarm, or makes any noise whatsoever during class must immediately leave the classroom for that day.  This policy applies to any electronic device students carry with them.


Required Texts:


InfoUSA:  Information USA [CD-ROM].  2007-2008.  Washington, D.C.:  U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Information Programs.  [Supplied by professor.]


NOTE:  All class readings from InfoUSA are also available online and can be printed from the AMST 250 class webpage:   []


Sept. 20-22:  Eid Al-Fitr holidays 1430—[no classes]


Sept. 24:  [Last day for dropping courses]


Sept. 27-Nov. 19:  Withdrawal Period with (W)


Sept. 28:  Introduction to American Law & Institutions:  What Is Law?


Sept. 30:  The Great Law Givers—Hammurabi


Readings:  The Code of Hammurabi (created ca. 1790 BCE) (From the AMST250 class website)


Oct. 5:  The Great Law Givers—Moses


Readings:  The Ten Commandments (c. 1441-1513 BCE) (From the AMST250 class website)


Oct. 7:  The Great Law Givers—Lycurgus (c. 800-730 BCE)


Readings:  Lycurgus’s Great Rhetra; Lycurgus of Sparta from Wikipedia (From the AMST250 class website)


Oct. 12:  The Great Law Givers—Draco (c. 621 BCE)


Readings:  Draco's Code (created 622-621 BCE) (From the AMST250 class website)


Oct. 14:  The Great Law Givers—Solon (638 BC–558 BCE)


Readings:   Solon from Wikipedia; Solon the Lawmaker (From the AMST250 class website)


Oct. 19:  The Great Law Givers—Justinian the Great (483-565 CE)


Readings:    Justinian I from Wikipedia; Corpus Juris Civilis from Wikipedia (c. 529-534 CE) (From the AMST250 class website)

Optional Readings:  free downloadable text of the Corpus Juris Civilis (From the AMST250 class website)


Oct. 21:  The Great Law Givers—Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh (c. 570-632 CE)


Readings:    Muhammad from Wikipedia (From the AMST250 class website)


Oct. 26:  The First Constitution of the United States (1777)


Readings:    Articles of Confederation; Articles of Confederation from Wikipedia (1777-1788)


Oct. 28:  The U.S. Constitution


Readings:    The U.S. Constitution from Wikipedia (1787-Present)


Nov. 2:  The U.S. Constitution


Readings:    The U.S. Constitution (1787-Present)


Nov. 4:  Midterm Exam


Nov.  8-12:  Mid-Semester break holiday—[no classes]


Nov. 16:  Contesting Unjust Laws


Readings:    Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience (1846) 




Nov. 18:  Accountability


Readings:   General Taguba: Accountability for Torture Does Not Stop at White House Door” (April 16, 2009); “US Future Depends on Torture Accountability” (April 16, 2009) (From the AMST250 class website)


Nov. 23:  Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied


Readings:  Waterboarding the Rule of Law” (April 28, 2009); Prosecuting Torture:  Is Time Really Running Out?” (May 10, 2009) (From the AMST250 class website)

Video:  Getting Waterboarded (From the AMST250 class website)


Nov. 25:  Enemy Combatants


Readings:  Obama's Guantánamo Appeasement Plan” (May 27, 2009); “Everyone Should See ‘Torturing Democracy’” (May 30, 2009) (From the AMST250 class website)


Nov. 26:  Arafah Holiday—[no classes]


Nov. 27-30:  Eid Al-Adha Holiday 1430—[no classes]


Dec. 2:  Suppressing Evidence


Readings:    Lieberman, Graham Threaten To Shut Down Senate Over Detainee Photos” (June 9, 2009) ; “Senate OKs block of alleged abuse photos” (June 18, 2009); “A Historian's Account of Democrats and Bush-Era War Crimes” (October 8, 2009) (From the AMST250 class website)


Dec. 7:   Is War the Absence of Law?


Readings:  Whitehouse: Waterboarding Story Line ‘False in Every One of its Dimensions’” (June 13, 2009); “Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC)” (August 2009) (From the AMST250 class website)


Dec. 9:  Following the Law


Readings:  Law Against Torture and the Moral Imperative for Accountability” (August 23, 2009) (From the AMST250 class website)


Dec. 14:  The Specific Law Against Torture


Readings:    “Is Torture Against the Law?  What Uncle Sam has to say about it.” (May 13, 2004) (From the AMST250 class website)


Dec. 16-17:  National Day of Bahrain holidays—[no classes]


Dec. 18:  Al-Hijra New Year holiday—[no classes]


Dec. 21:  The Specific Law Against Torture


Readings:  Torture and the Law” (November 2001) (From the AMST250 class website)


Dec. 23:  Applying the Law  [Research Papers Due]


Readings:    Will Holder Uphold the Law on Torture?” (July 16, 2009); “Obama’s shameful decision on torture” (May 22, 2009)(From the AMST250 class website)


Dec. 27-28:  Ashura holidays—[no classes]


Dec. 30:  Restoring Legitimacy to the Rule of Law [Last Day for In-Class Presentations]


Readings:    Cheney Says Obama, Not Holder, Is Chief Law Enforcement Officer” (August 30, 2009); “Obama supports Holder in continuing investigation of interrogation methods” (September 21, 2009); A Call for Congress to Take Action on Torture (October 28, 2009) (From the AMST250 class website)


Jan. 1, 2010:  New Year’s holiday—[no classes]


Jan. 4, 2010:  Rule of Law or Lawless Empire? [Last day of classes; Review]


Jan. 19, 2010:  Final Exam  11:30-13:30


Jan. 21, 2010:  Last day for submitting first semester’s grades to the Registration Department


Jan. 24-Feb. 21, 2010:  Inter-semester Break [Holidays]