The Trajectory of Justice in America: 2019

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UCSC Spring Quarter, 2019

Lectures: T-Th. 3:20—4:55 PM; Stevenson Academy Room 175

Office Hours: Thursday 5—6:30 PM; Cowell Conference Room 132


This course is a 5 credit spring quarter class providing undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to become experts on the specifics of the science and U.S. politics of climate change, the ongoing process of the potential impeachment of Donald J. Trump, and the Standing Rock Movement against the Dakota Access pipeline, with special emphasis on the role of private military security company Tiger Swan and the legal defense of former congressional candidate and Standing Rock tribal member Chase Iron Eyes.


American civil rights trial attorney & Court of Appeals advocate Daniel Sheehan has been an intermittent guest lecturer on U.C. campuses for 25 years. He has taught: “The Hidden History of America: The History of CIA Covert Operations From WWII to The Present” at UC Santa Barbara and has, most recently, taught four courses here at UC Santa Cruz. These included: (1) “Eight Cases That Changed America”; (2) “The Alternative Theories of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy”; (3) “Our Constitution In Crisis: From The End of The Cold War to The Rise of The Project for a New American Century”; and (4) “Rulers of The Realm”.

This spring Mr. Sheehan will present 20 lectures at 90 minutes each and in lieu of discussion section, will host nine 1.5-hour optional office hour sessions, held every Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m. in Cowell Conference Room 132, following that day’s lecture.

This course will be open to all enrolled U.C. Santa Cruz undergraduate and graduate students as well as U.C. Lifelong Learners. Assignments include readings concerning, and documentary film footage coverage of, the events that will be discussed in this course, as well as essays on relevant topics. Digital course materials will be available online at and physical materials will be on reserve at the library.

Assignments: Expectations and Grading

Students will be required to attend both lectures each week. Each of the reading assignments (or video viewings) that will be assigned will be required to be completed before the lecture in which the subject matter of that reading or documentary is scheduled to be discussed. Time will be reserved at the end of each lecture for student questions — engagement during these question sessions will determine students’ participation grades.

The following components will make up the final grade:

  1. Attendance and participation in all 20 lectures:
  2. First Essay Due April 25th (5-6 pages):
  3. Second Essay Due May 16th (7-9 pages):
  4. Final Project Due June 10th: (10-12 pages):

*Plagiarism will not be tolerated and will result in a failing grade. (Plagiarism is the deliberate use of someone else’s words or ideas without acknowledging the source. For the library’s guide to citing sources, see and Specific instructions for citation style for each assignment in this class will be given with the assignment.) To learn more about campus procedures for dealing with academic dishonesty, see

Disabilities / Accommodations

If you qualify for classroom accommodations because of a disability, please get an Accommodation Authorization from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and submit it to the instructor or one of the T.A.s in person, outside of class (e.g., office hours) within the first two weeks of the quarter. Contact DRC at 459-2089 (voice), 459-4806 (TTY), or for more information on the requirements and/or process.

Required Texts:

In an effort to make this class as affordable and accessible to as many students as possible, the required readings and videos will be available through hyperlink or through the e-commons webpage.  When copyright laws prohibit such techniques, the texts will be on reserve at McHenry Library.


Tuesday, April 2nd: Course overview; the interrelation of the three components of the course.

Trump’s fossil fuel-friendly cabinet and lesser appointments; Donald Trump’s second act as president: executive order directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reverse its 2016 decision requiring a full environmental impact study on the Dakota Access oil pipeline through Native American territory.

  • The stunning victory of Donald Trump on election day 2016: review of the polling and predictions
  • Brief description of the Mueller Report, House Investigations, & additional cases (Southern District of NY, Eastern District of VA, NY attorney general)
  • Rex Tillerson, C.E.O. of Exxon Mobil — Secretary of State   
  • Rick Perry, Texas governor — Secretary of Energy
  • Betsy Devos, sister of Erik Prince — Secretary of Education (Eric Prince is founder of Blackwater, which is linked to TigerSwan, the company that provided security services at Standing Rock to the pipeline company)
  • Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma attorney general — head of Environmental Protection Agency

Readings/videos: none

Thursday, April 4th: The present status & logistical setting for the potential impeachment of Donald J. Trump


  1. “In Defense of American Elitism,”
  2. Vox, the process of impeachment (video)
  3. New York Times & Washington Post (videos) on Mueller Report
  4. Mueller’s Charter
  5. Ongoing assignment throughout the course: read today’s news in the New York Times about Robert Mueller (you will need to pay $1/wk to get around the NYT paywall)
  6. Spygate part 1 and part 2 (videos) and link to channel.
  7. Discussion of impeachment potential by Democratic House reps on MSNBC (video – only watch up to 3:40)


Tuesday, April 9th (Lecture by Dr. Jon Conway): Climate Change – What is it and how do we know we’re causing it?

In this pair of lectures, we will be diving into exactly what climate change is, how we know it is happening (and that we’re to blame), and finally what all of this means for the planet we live on — the only life-bearing planet we know of in the universe. The goal is to teach students the scientific facts about our current period of rapid climate change to put future discussions of climate policy in a fuller context.

The physicochemical basis of anthropogenic climate change:

  • Climate change is an inevitable consequence of rapidly-increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) levels
    • Examples of GHGs (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), halogenated gases, water vapor (H2O), ozone (O3))
    • Sources of GHGs
    • What makes a GHG?
      • Infrared radiation absorption
    • GHG cycling
      • Sources, sinks, lifespans, relevant fluxes
      • Introduction to feedback loops

Evidence for climate change

    • Rise in atmospheric GHGs
      • Keeling curve and atmospheric GHG reconstructions
      • Tracking GHG sources through isotopic ratios
      • Spatiotemporal distribution
      • IR band saturation limits have not been reached
      • Basic chemistry (hydrocarbons + energy = more energy + H2O + CO2)
    • Ocean acidification
    • Global warming
      • Unequal distribution of heat across planet and through atmospheric layers
    • Natural climate forcings are inadequate to explain current warming trend
      • Solar brightness, volcanic activity, continental arrangement, oceanic currents, planetary albedo, Milankovitch cycles, etc etc etc…

Writing Assignment #1: Due Thursday, April 25th. Choose one of the following prompts, or have your own idea approved by the instructor:

  1. How accurate are representations of climate change in the news and popular media, and how have they influenced public perception and policy action around climate change? What role does scientific literacy play?
  2. Why have climate change tipping points and/or feedback loops largely been left out of discussions on global climate action, and what, if any, impact has this had on the creation of climate change policies?
  3. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been the global standard for climate science for decades. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC model of globalized, politicized scientific research in the context of the IPCC’s role in stimulating global climate change policies.
  4. Open prompt: Pending instructor approval, students may formulate their own writing topic relating to the intersection of climate science, public perception, and global politics.


  1. IPCC AR5 Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (Summary for Policymakers)
  2. Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), Volume I (Executive Summary)
  3. Keeling Curve
  4. CarbonTracker video of atmospheric CO2 “pumphandle”

Additional Resources:

Thursday, April 11th  (Lecture by Dr. Jon Conway): The environmental impacts of climate change; feedbacks, tipping points, and lessons from deep time

From the tops of the highest mountains to the deepest depths of the ocean, nearly every ecosystem on Earth is or will be impacted by anthropogenic climate change. This lecture will address the predicted impacts of increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations on weather systems, ocean physicochemistry/currents, population distributions/extinctions, and more. The goal of this lecture is to establish the severity of the consequences of inaction and provide motivation for understanding the root causes and finding solutions.

Current environmental impacts of climate change

  • California’s droughts, bark beetle infestations, and record-breaking wildfires
    • Amplification of “boom-bust” precipitation patterns means more droughts, more flooding and mudslides, and less water for human and ecosystem use
  • Longer hurricane seasons affecting larger regions
    • Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland in October 2017, killing three and breaking the record for easternmost Atlantic hurricane

Future predicted environmental impacts of climate change

  • Rapid increases in land, sea, and air temperatures
    • Geographic distribution of populations will continue shifting
    • Heat stress increases vulnerability to diseases and pests
  • Changes in climatic and seasonal patterns
    • Shifts in weather patterns, including more frequent and extreme weather events
  • Melting of the ice caps
    • Sea-based vs. land-based glaciers
    • Susceptibility to feedback loops
  • Sea level rise
    • Driven by melting of land-based glaciers and thermal expansion of water
  • Changes in ocean properties
    • pH — Direct result of increased atmospheric CO2 levels
    • Temperature
    • Dissolved gases and nutrients
    • Current patterns — Case study: Running AMOC?

Feedbacks, tipping points, and lessons from deep time

  • What are feedback loops and tipping points?
  • Explore currently understood feedbacks and tipping points and their roles in previous mass extinctions
  • Discuss the shortcomings of the IPCC reports


  1. IPCC AR5 Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (Summary for Policymakers)
  2. Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States (Executive Summary)

Additional Resources:


Tuesday, April 16th: Power and Profit in the U.S. – The Constitution, Robber Barons, the Middle East

Deniers: Main arguments


  • It’s too late—nothing can be done!
  • 28% reduction in 2005 annual level by 2025 (Obama)
  • 40% reduction in 1990 levels by 2030 & 100% renewable electricity AND carbon neutral by 2045 (California)
  • Paris Agreement
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • Pope Francis: Laudato Si


  1. Top Ten Climate Deniers
  2. ThinkProgress: The era of U.S. climate leadership is officially over
  3. Obama policy
  4. California Energy Commission – Tracking Progress
  5. Overview of Laudato Si
  6. Pope Francis Appears to Back Tribal Land Rights in Dakota Access Pipeline Fight

Additional Resources:

Thursday, April 18th: The Mueller Report


  1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Van Jones panel (video)
  2. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez proposed Green New Deal bill
  3. Data for Progress version of Green New Deal, full text
  4. Journal of Environment & Development:The Two Sides of the Paris Agreement” by Raymond Clémençon
  5. Mission 2020: Climate Turning Point
  6. International Renewable Energy Agency: “The True Cost of Fossil Fuels: Saving on the Externalities of Air Pollution and Climate Change
  7. Project Drawdown Solutions


Tuesday, April 23rd: What Mueller Missed – The Narrative No One Is Talking About ***MUST WATCH*** “What Mueller Missed” section begins at 34:34

  • Convictions/guilty pleas: Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Alex Van Der Zwaan, Richard Pinedo
  • Indictments: Roger Stone, Konstantin Kilimnik, 13 Russian nationals, 12 Russian military officers
  • The present proposed resolutions of impeachment
  • The “more moderate camp” v. the “progressive camp” of Democrats
  • The Republican resistance
  • The Russian oil deal behind all of this

Writing Assignment #2: Due Thursday, May 16th. Choose one of the following prompts, or have your own idea approved by the instructor:

  1. Analyzing the history of presidential impeachment and non-impeachment in the US, discuss parallels between Donald Trump’s presidency thus far with specific historical events. In the public conversation around potential impeachment, what is similar to the past? What is different?
  2. If Donald J. Trump were impeached tomorrow, what historical precedent would it set? What would be the political discourse to follow? What, in your opinion, would be the positive and negative impacts of impeachment, and how could that affect future presidencies?
  3. What is the argument for impeaching the current president? What are the arguments against it? What do you think is the more convincing argument and why?


  1. The Case for Impeaching Trump, Elizabeth Holtzman (first two thirds of the book)
  2. PBS content related to the Mueller Report

Thursday: April 25th: Precedent for Impeachment – Burying the True Crime

  • Writing Assignment #1 Due
  • Lessons from Watergate and Iran Contra
  • House Judiciary Committee, House Oversight & Reform Committee, House Intelligence Committee, House Ways & Means Committee, House Foreign Affairs Committee


  1. The Case for Impeaching Trump, Elizabeth Holtzman (last third of the book)
  2. The Case against Impeaching Trump, Alan Dershowitz (first half of the book)
  3. Politico: House Democrats open sweeping corruption probe into Trump’s world


Tuesday, April 30th: Precedent for Impeachment – CIA, Iran Contra, Rulers of the Realm


  1. The Case against Impeaching Trump, Alan Dershowitz (last half of the book)
  2. Makaeff v. Trump University, LLC et al – 3:10-cv-00940 – California Southern District Court
  3. New York Times: “Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, The Times Found

Thursday: May 2nd: Discussion of Trump’s Potential Impeachment and Issues of Censorship


  1. All the President’s Men (video)
  2. Telegraph: “What was Watergate and why did Nixon face impeachment?
  3. Guardian: Timeline of the Clinton impeachment process


Tuesday, May 7th: Investigating the Investigation & The Historical Background of Non-Impeachment

  • ‘59 Eisenhower/Nixon’s War of Aggression in Vietnam & Castro Assassination Attempts & Lumumba & Trujillo Assassinations;
  • ‘63 JFK back-channel discussions with Kruschev;
  • ‘64 Johnson’s Falsification of “The Bay of Tonkin Incident” and The Phoenix Assassination Program; Heroin Smuggling and War Crimes;
  • ‘68: Nixon Treason with Madam Chennault re: North Vietnam;
  • ‘72 Cover-up of “Deeper Story” of Watergate & Banco Internacional;
  • ‘80 “October Surprise”: Treason of Casey & Reagan/Bush Campaign;
  • ‘91 “Baiting” of Saddam Hussein & “Invasion & Occupation of The Middle Eastern Oil Fields”
  • ‘03 George “W” Bush’s “Shock & Awe” Invasion & Permanent Occupation of The Middle Eastern Oil Fields


  1. Inside the Shadow Government, Christic Institute pg. 1-99

Thursday, May 9: Dangers, Opportunities and Origins of a Constitutional Crisis


  • The “Acting President”: Ronald Reagan – Shackley/Bush & Casey
  • The “Off-The-Shelf” Enterprise
  • The Investigation and The Filing of The RICO Complaint
  • “The World Behind The Veil”: The Revelation of Joseph Burkholder Smith
  • The “Eruption Into The Open”….ALMOST
  • The “Collapse of the Congress” & Attack on Special Counsel Walsh: “The Fire Next Time”
  • The Missed Opportunity to Rid The World of The CIA & The Substitute of “Anti-
  • Terrorism” for “Anti-Communism”


  1. Inside the Shadow Government, Christic Institute pg. 100-198
  2. Cover-Up: Behind the Iran-Contra Affair (video)


Tuesday, May 14th: To Impeach or Not to Impeach – Gathering Our Thoughts for the next Assignment

No Class Thursday May 16 due to a campus-wide strike.

(#NODAPL content starts next week, but might as well dig in now…) The #NoDAPL Movement in Context: A History of Struggle

The Dakota Access pipeline has become national news over the past three years, but the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to gain sovereignty over their resources and land is not a new phenomenon. In the next four lectures, we explore Indigenous resistance to colonialism and corporate exploitation, in both contemporary and historical context, and how the NoDAPL movement is a model for an environmentally just society.

  • Final Writing Assignment: Due Monday June 10th. Students will select a topic covered in the course, or following the themes covered in the course, and create a written (10-12 pages) research paper. Topics must be approved by the instructors by Thursday, May 30th.


  1. “Fighting for Our Lives, NoDAPL in Historical Context,” Nick Estes
  2. U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz reports on her findings from Standing Rock (video)

Additional Resources:

  1. Dances With Wolves (video)
  2. Chase Iron Eyes Legal Defense Filing
  3. The Intercept series: Oil and Water

Red Power – The Rise of the American Indian Movement

  • *Second writing assignment due
  • Red Power: The Rise of the American Indian Movement

Discussion Session 6


  1. Incident at Oglala (video)

Additional Resources:

  1. Agents of Repression, Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall (section on AIM)


Tuesday, May 21st: OIL = MONEY = POWER


  1. Viceland’s Sacred Water: Standing Rock Part I – RISE (video)
  2. “Pipelines Explained: How Safe Are America’s 2.5 Million Miles of Pipelines?”, ProPublica
  3. “4 Key Impacts of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines,” National Geographic

Thursday, May 23rd: How did we get here? (Oil = Money = Power)


  1. Viceland’s Sacred Water: Standing Rock Part II – RISE (video)
  2. Treaties of Fort Laramie & DAPL, Indian Country Today




  1. “We Are Not Terrorists,” Lakota People’s Law Project (video)

Thursday, May 30th: Strategies of Resistance – Mueller and Standing Rock

Final Writing Assignment Topic Approval Due


Tuesday, June 4th: What are YOU going to do about Climate Change?

Thursday: June 6th: Strategic and Tactical Stories

Thursday, June 13th

Final project due