More on the Constitution Fetish

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Some of you probably saw Dahlia Lithwick on Rachel Maddow’s show last night, but if you didn’t, here it is.

Lithwick points out that the Constitution fetishists so dearly want to believe the Constitution is clear and simple and absolute in every way, when it’s actually vague and very open-ended on many points, not to mention infused with 18th-century legalisms that one can’t possibly understand correctly without some knowledge of English common law of the time. As I said in the earlier post, I sincerely believe that most teabaggers and their leaders — Palin, Beck et al. — would flunk a quiz on basic constitutional facts.

BTW, please suggest questions for a quiz — I may create one.

Anyway, it strikes me that this is so much in keeping with authoritarian personality types, who famously have a low tolerance of uncertainty and ambiguity. As Bob Altemeyer points out (page 122), this is one of the reasons they don’t “get” science. Science never declares any understanding of anything to be the absolute and final truth, and authoritarians can’t deal with that. Once science has been shown to be mistaken about something, then it’s all invalid, in their minds.

This also means that authoritarians/conservatives/teabaggers are forever and always at odds with human civilization unless they can control it and stamp out all the parts that confuse them. They do this in the name of liberty, of course.

Update: Big, honking, neon-lit proof of the authoritarian nature of conservatism — some blogger thinks my remarks about constitutional fetishism are treason.

Believe me, if teabaggers ever get unchecked power, the U.S. will become a totalitarian nightmare even Orwell could not have imagined.

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54 Comments

  1. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 5, 2011 @3:36 pm

    “They do this in the name of liberty, of course.”

    And let’s not forget “freedom.” They’re mighty big on freedom, too.
    And not to disregard Godwin’s Law, or anything, but ‘work makes you free.’
    And nothing will make you freer than working for next to nothing. Also, nothing teaches children the value of hard work than laboring for pennies per hour for a 12 hour shift.
    And no one values liberty as much as a slave.

    My first question to Palin, Beck and Bachmann would be, “How many ‘k’s’ in “Strict Constitutionalist?” No peeking!
    My 2nd would be, “Do you think freedom of speach applies to all others, or just you?”

  2. JTBoofle  •  Jan 5, 2011 @3:36 pm

    True or False:
    1) The Constitution gives the government the power to levy taxes.
    True: Article 1, Section 8
    2) The Constitution gives the government the power to borrow money.
    True: Article 1, Section 8
    3) The Constitution gives the government the right to suspend habeas corpus.
    True: Article 1, Section 9

  3. Swami  •  Jan 5, 2011 @4:17 pm

    My question would be: Is it Constitutional for Scalia to be teaching a class in understanding the Constitution to incoming members of Congress as Michelle Bachman proposes?

    It would appear to me as an insidious breaking down of the separation of powers clause contained in the Constitution and allow the court to influence Congressional members in the direction of a agenda or position already decided by at least one member of the court.

  4. maha  •  Jan 5, 2011 @4:25 pm

    It would appear to me as an insidious breaking down of the separation of powers clause contained in the Constitution and allow the court to influence Congressional members in the direction of a agenda or position already decided by at least one member of the court.

    That’s a point. I would think he’d have to be very careful to not discuss either cases currently being considered in any part of the judicial system or legislation pending in the House.

  5. Swami  •  Jan 5, 2011 @4:27 pm

    Oh, Make that two!…I forgot about Clarence.. as longs as he’s got his videos to watch he’ll rubber stamp any decision scalia tells him to.

  6. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 5, 2011 @5:03 pm

    I also have a huge problem with a sitting SC Justice giving classes on the Constitution to Congressional members. Whether it was a Liberal or a Conservative.
    It’s the job of a Judge at that level to determine the legality and applicability of the laws that are passed in Congress, not give to give tips on how to get them ruled on favorably when the do end up in front of the SCOTUS.
    This just smells to all high and holy heaven. It’s not something that should be done, and the Chief Justice should have put a stop to it. But then, remember who the CJ of the SCOTUS is.

  7. muldoon  •  Jan 5, 2011 @5:12 pm

    T/F: The Founding Fathers (with the possible exception of Thomas Jefferson) were devout Christians.

    False. Many of them were deists.

    T/F: The Treaty of Tripoli, written in 1796 under the presidency of George Washington and signed by John Adams, stated that the government of the United States was not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.

    True.

    Scalia teaching Republicans about the Constitution is like a duck teaching brain surgery to a flock of parrots. The man is a judicial quack.

  8. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 5, 2011 @5:13 pm

    Oh, and btw, I don’t dismiss that this is all just purely theatrical so that this new RepubliKlan group can look like it’s ooooooooh sooooooo serious to its lemmings about the Constitution when they go about keeping what they like, and discarding the rest.
    Teabag husband to wife, ‘Well, dear, did you know that this is the first Congress in history to have a SC Justice give them classes on the Constitution? So, of course they’re right when they’re trying to limit your rights because you’re a woman. It’s in the Constitution!

  9. Swami  •  Jan 5, 2011 @5:31 pm

    Does the Constitutional provision that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment apply to torturing suspects, seeing how the United States government didn’t torture as a punishment?

  10. Brian Jordan  •  Jan 5, 2011 @5:37 pm

    The Constituton was formed by ideas from the 10 Commandmants,Magna Carta, Blackstones Common English Law, The House of Burgess in Virginia abd the Federalist Papers. When it was written the Founding Fathers never considered the Whore House we call D.C.
    If we stuck to the Basics Governmennt would not rape us (or at minimum have the TSA molest us). Thomas Jefferson warned against futile foreign intrigues. Perhaps those who feel the Constitution is a fetish should read it first. Our presnt President quoted the Declaration of Indepence as the U.S. Constitution. Quite a scholar. One embarassed Democrat and MSgt of Marines. Perhaps when they swear to uphold the Constitution they should be made to read it.

  11. maha  •  Jan 5, 2011 @7:22 pm

    The Constituton was formed by ideas from the 10 Commandmants,Magna Carta, Blackstones Common English Law, The House of Burgess in Virginia abd the Federalist Papers. When it was written the Founding Fathers never considered the Whore House we call D.C.

    Cross out the 10 Commandments; that’s silly. You might as well cite the Code of Hammurabi, which is older than the 10Cs and probably influenced them. Greek and Roman political philosophies, which you don’t mention, were much more directly relevant than the 10Cs. Blackstone’s commentaries on Engish common law (he didn’t create English common law) were indeed influential, however, so you get one point for that. The Virginia House of Burgesses was sort of cooked in the same pot, but I don’t see it as an original template for Congress, since it was patterned after existing legislative bodies. The federalist papers were written to defend the Constitution and argue for its ratification, so it’s incorrect to cite them as a source of the Constitution.

    I’ll give you 1 point out of four. Pretty much puts you in the “mostly ignorant” category.

    Perhaps when they swear to uphold the Constitution they should be made to read it.

    Since you don’t know much about it either, perhaps you should take some courses. Just reading it wouldn’t do you much good; I doubt you have the comprehension skills to understand it.

    OOPS !sorry about the typos

    Not a problem. Other things may be a problem, but not the typos.

  12. Brian Jordan  •  Jan 5, 2011 @5:38 pm

    OOPS !sorry about the typos

  13. Virginia  •  Jan 5, 2011 @5:48 pm

    How many times does the phrase “general welfare” appear in the Constitution?

    Answer: Twice. In the Preamble and in the first sentence of Article One, Section 8 (the enumeration of legislative powers section, i.e. the teabaggers’ favorite).

    The Preamble uses “promote the general welfare” and Section 8 uses “provide for the common defence and general welfare (note that the two are given equal weight).”

  14. Kaleberg  •  Jan 5, 2011 @6:35 pm

    Do you think they’ll actually read the preamble? It starts with “we”. That sounds awfully collectivist.

  15. Swami  •  Jan 5, 2011 @7:05 pm

    Which State was the last State to ratify the Constitution? In what year?

  16. Chip Uni  •  Jan 5, 2011 @8:29 pm

    I’m sorry; I think that the questions are far too specific. Let’s try something REALLY broad…

    1. Which article of the Constitution is about amending the Constitution?
    2. Which article of the Constitution is about the powers of Congress?
    3. Which article of the Constitution is about the powers of the judiciary?
    4. Which article of the Constitution is about the powers of the President?
    5. Which article of the Constitution is about the powers of the states?

    Answers:
    1. Article V
    2. Article I
    3. Article III
    4. Article II
    5. Article IV

  17. maha  •  Jan 5, 2011 @9:12 pm

    Chip Uni — Nah, why make it so simple? The mouth-breathers fancy themselves to be constitutional scholars. I’m designing a multiple choice test that requires actual knowledge of the Constitution. I don’t want people to be able to find the answer through a simple keyword search.

  18. Dolorous Stroke  •  Jan 5, 2011 @8:55 pm

    Our presnt President quoted the Declaration of Indepence as the U.S. Constitution. Quite a scholar.

    Brian, you must be thinking of the new Speaker, John Boehner. Or maybe Republican leader Rush Limbaugh.

  19. Doug Hughes  •  Jan 5, 2011 @10:01 pm

    The selection of Scalia to teach reflects the problem. Why haven’t any liberal members of the court been invited to instruct. Maybe because the word is not ‘teach’ but ‘indoctrinate’. A lot of these freshman are impressionable – and the teabagge from MA has shown a tendancy to break ranks and vote his mind. What if all the House freshmen won’t be housebroken…

    Expect Boner to put on a lot of theatrics but keep everyone on a very short leash.

  20. Fred  •  Jan 5, 2011 @10:07 pm

    Does the Constitution give government the right to regulate the militia?
    Does the Constitution define what the ‘militia’ is?

  21. maha  •  Jan 5, 2011 @10:17 pm

    Fred — I was thinking in terms of multiple guess —

    The Constitution says this branch of the federal government may organize and discipline the militia:

    The President

    The War Department

    Congress

    None of the above

    And the answer is Congress, in Article I, Chapter 8, paragraph 16.

    The Constitution itself doesn’t spell out what “the militia” is, but the 2nd Congress did so in the Militia Act of 1792. It’s been re-organized and re-defined several times since then.

  22. wmd  •  Jan 5, 2011 @11:18 pm

    Your Maryland attorney blogger in the update doesn’t seem to realize “fetish” has non sexual definitions.

    fetish 1. An object that is believed to have magical or spiritual powers, especially such an object associated with animistic or shamanistic religious practices.
    2. An object of unreasonably excessive attention or reverence: made a fetish of punctuality.
    3. Something, such as a material object or a nonsexual part of the body, that arouses sexual desire and may become necessary for sexual gratification.
    4. An abnormally obsessive preoccupation or attachment; a fixation.

    Your usage seems to fit meaning 2 and 4, with meaning 1 also fitting. His post seems to indicate some interesting psychology.

  23. Swami  •  Jan 5, 2011 @11:19 pm

    In regard to the update… That fool blogger thinks your comments are treasonous when they are actually blasphemous. Some people just don’t get the whole Constitution thing. What a moran!

  24. maha  •  Jan 6, 2011 @8:58 am

    That fool blogger thinks your comments are treasonous when they are actually blasphemous.

    Damn straight.

  25. finefroghair  •  Jan 6, 2011 @12:13 am

    can someone please explain to me what the picture of scumbag Reagan was doing in the post linked by maha and how it had any relevance to this discussion of the constitution? I am forever perplexed by the contorted logic applied by conservative bloggers. screws loose is an understatement. also at whose behest was scummylia addressing these incoming freshman there must some thorny ethical issues at work here. maha you have an ironclad constitution to go fishing around in those right wing blogs they just give me the creeps!

  26. wmd  •  Jan 6, 2011 @1:22 am

    Reagan is a magic totem for Conservatives.

  27. Dan  •  Jan 6, 2011 @2:06 am

    Can we just dispense with protocol and start calling the rightwingnuts “liars?”

    I mean, they already can’t handle the truth, so one more truth can’t do any harm, can it?

  28. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 6, 2011 @9:08 am

    “…your comments are treasonous when they are actually blasphemous.”
    A perfect finish!

  29. Silver Owl  •  Jan 6, 2011 @10:06 am

    Everything is treasonous to today’s conservatives with the exception of constantly licking their boots and butts. Servitude they love, thinking they hate.

  30. Chocura750  •  Jan 6, 2011 @11:22 am

    I would recommend reading “The True Believer” by Eric Hoeffer to understand the psycology of the right wing.

  31. maha  •  Jan 6, 2011 @12:09 pm

    I would recommend reading “The True Believer” by Eric Hoeffer

    I second that recommendation.

  32. Felicity  •  Jan 6, 2011 @12:57 pm

    If the Constitution can be interpreted one and only one way, Mr. Scalia etal,how come in the history of case decisions before the high court there have been completely opposite interpretations based on the exact same Constitution.

    The 9th Amendment ‘opens’ a part of the Constitution – “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” (Madison, I think.) Too bad there isn’t an amendment to squelch the mistaken idea that the Constitution is open to only one interpretation – probably because the framers couldn’t imagine the likes of a Mr. Scalia ever sitting on the Court.

  33. goatherd  •  Jan 6, 2011 @12:58 pm

    I was trying to make a clever(?) quip about conflating the Constitution with the Bible so they could repeal the ninth commandment, — not punchy enough, maybe Cundgulag can help. (Happy late Eastern Orthodox Christmas by the way.)

    My senior moment prone brain recalls someone (John Yoo?) making the argument that Swami alluded to, that torture/enhanced interrogation wasn’t unconstitutional because it wasn’t punishment, given that the vicitim or as they would say, “recipient” was yet to be found guilty of any crime. “Oh, what a brave new world that has such creatures in it.”

    At least this has inspired us all to brush up on the Constitution. Although the “Dubster” had me checking it often enough. Heck, maybe I could even pass the tests we had on it in “Social Studies” class back when people believed that being an informed citizen was better tha being a “consumer.”

    I recently came across a “pocket Constitution” that I was given in 1960. Maybe, I’ll start carrying it around like a can of constitutional whippass.

  34. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 6, 2011 @1:22 pm

    goatherd,
    Thanks, but you’re not late in best wishes. Today is Christmas Eve. I’m making a baked ham with an OJ, cloves, orange marmalade (with red pepper flakes) glaze, and we’re taking it to my sister’s tomorrow, after church, for a gathering of family.
    And though I’m not at all religious, I do love the service and liturgy of the Russian Orthodox services. If you’ve never been, find a large RO church near you, and go to a Mass. The icons are beautiful, as are the stained-glss windows, and the choirs can be devine (if not literally).
    Merry Christmas to everyone!

    PS: This is why I’m not starting my diet until after next week, which is when our New Year is. And hey, we’re NOT 2 weeks behind y’all!!! We’re 50 weeks ahead – as Checkov might have said on Star Trek if they’d ever covered holidays. (And knowing my church, the date’s wouldn’t have changed even hundred or thousands of years into the future).

  35. maha  •  Jan 6, 2011 @1:30 pm

    I’ve decided to start my diet after Chinese New Year, which is February 3 this year. It’s a year of the metal rabbit, which happens to be my “sign,” so that is auspicious. But if I mess up I can try again after Tibetan New Year, which is March 5. And if I miss that, New Year’s Day in Laos is April 13.

  36. Felicity  •  Jan 6, 2011 @1:40 pm

    goatherd – It was Mr. Woo who said that Hamilton was right, that the president can do anything the Constitution does not expressly forbid. In other words, the president exists ‘outside’ the Constitution, which became the Bush’s excuse for everything he did in direct defiance of the document.

    By the way, the word ‘expressly’ appeared in the (fatal) Articles of Confederation: Was purposely left out of the Constitution by the Framers, for good reason: Has been reinserted, repeatedly, by the constipated righties – directly defying the Framers.

  37. "Fair and Balanced" Dave  •  Jan 6, 2011 @1:55 pm

    Your Maryland attorney blogger in the update doesn’t seem to realize “fetish” has non sexual definitions.

    Yes but with wingnuts, everything is about sex (usually gay sex).

  38. Mike G  •  Jan 6, 2011 @3:23 pm

    Once science has been shown to be mistaken about something, then it’s all invalid, in their minds.

    Reminds me of the supremely arrogant authoritarian Bush Administration, who would never, ever admit to making any mistakes whatsoever. Except perhaps for self-flattering non-answers like “I trusted XYZ too much”.

  39. charles  •  Jan 6, 2011 @3:46 pm

    My question for the quiz:

    Where in the Constitution is it indicated that corporations will have any of the rights of citizens?

  40. goatherd  •  Jan 6, 2011 @5:45 pm

    Thanks, Felicity and Cundgulag for information/corrections. My grandfather was Russian Orthodox early in his life but, didn’t practice after he left Ukraine. At least that’s my excuse. I wish we did have a Russian Orthodox church here. I’ve been to a fair number of churches and monastaries in Greece, I guess there might be some similarity. We have an insane number of little churches each with its own special insight into the Bible, often indicated by a single verse cited on a bumper sticker. That keeps things nice and simple, unless it’s about snake handling or something, in which case a first aid kit and some knowledge of herpetology might be helpful.

    Good point about the majority/minority opinions on the SC, Felicity. I guess my teabagger neighbors would just think it was because they haven’t purged all the liberals from the court yet.

  41. Swami  •  Jan 6, 2011 @6:11 pm

    I’m puzzled! … What is the reading of the Constitution on the House of Representatives today supposed to accomplish? I know it’s a political stunt, but I don’t get point of the stunt. Is it to venerate the Constitution as a show of being a true American?

    I see this whole exercise in Constitutional reading as an exercise in sickness. They should read on their own time the history leading up to it’s creation and understand the spirit of unity and cooperation in which it came to be. What a colossal waste of time!

  42. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 6, 2011 @7:19 pm

    Swami,
    As I’m sure readers here know, this is just a combination of Kabuki and Commedia dell’arte. The RepubliKlans after reading it, can now go back and say, “See? We Republicans read “entire” The Constitution out loud. We’re the first Congress to ever do that! So, now you’ll know that EVERYTHING we do is Constitutional!” And the lemmings will nod their heads, and follow the assholes wherever they’re led, even as they tear constitutional rights to shreds.
    Also, reading this amended version is like reading the Readers Digest version of the 3rd book in a great trilogy. It makes you feel like you know what the whole story was, even though you didn’t read the first two books, and a shortened version of the 3rd. Without some context, they’ll no more understand The Constitution than a hamster that’s had the Cliff’s Notes version read to it of “Second Foundation” by Asimov will understand his grand Speculative Fiction series. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV (I have played one in numerous plays in the last few decades, though! ), but to my understanding, to fully comprehend The Constitution, you have to have a working knowledge of “The Articles of Confederation,” and “The Federalist Papers,” in order to see the evolution in the Founding Fathers thoughts. And a little knowledge of 17th and 18th Century British law wouldn’t hurt, either. But, that’s NOT what’s happening.
    But as I said, this is all just theatre. But I’m sure the “critics” in the MSM will give them rave reviews. They’ll look to their leaders like Broder and Brooks, who I have no doubt will think this is the best thing since bipartisanly sliced bread, and join in lockstep. Lemmings reviewing lemmings have to appreciate the performance of the asshole before them. It’s the nature of lemmings. Don’t look above the herd, just keep your eyes on the asshole in front of you. It’s ahead of you, so it must know where it’s going.
    Commedia dell’arte, indeed…

  43. Tom B  •  Jan 6, 2011 @8:02 pm

    @Charles “My question for the quiz:
    Where in the Constitution is it indicated that corporations will have any of the rights of citizens?”

    Same place it says random individuals (not militias) can hoard weapons.

  44. chris  •  Jan 6, 2011 @9:53 pm

    They’re use of “treason” is becoming a new version of Godwin’s Law.

  45. biggerbox  •  Jan 6, 2011 @10:39 pm

    NOW I understand why they bothered to read it out loud!

    Pete Sessions and another GOP Congressman didn’t understand that they actually needed to, you know like, show up for work and really get sworn in before you could start proposing legislation and casting votes and stuff like a real live United States Representative.

    They seem to have thought it would be OK to go straight to the pumping donors for money part, and swear to a TV set showing the ceremony while attending a fundraiser with campaign contributors. Seriously. Nice job, guys.

    With such finely-honed senses of what is and isn’t proper procedure, and what makes something legal and what doesn’t, it may be a good thing that they are starting by reviewing the basics. They obviously need them.

    I think the obvious next question has got to be: “Why won’t Pete Sessions show us his birth certificate?” 🙂

  46. moonbat  •  Jan 6, 2011 @10:44 pm

    … it strikes me that this is so much in keeping with authoritarian personality types, who famously have a low tolerance of uncertainty and ambiguity. As Bob Altemeyer points out (page 122), this is one of the reasons they don’t “get” science. Science never declares any understanding of anything to be the absolute and final truth, and authoritarians can’t deal with that. Once science has been shown to be mistaken about something, then it’s all invalid, in their minds.

    I’ve been in a number of arguments with wingnuts who thought they were being logically triumphant when some tiny aspect of my argument was found to be wrong, which in their black and white minds meant the whole argument was wrong. In fact, this is the tactic many of them use, everyday to dismiss reality – they look for some minor flaw of any argument, which lets them dismiss the whole thing. Professional Wingnuts like Rush Limbaugh use this constantly, to distract their followers from a main argument with trivia/minor side issues.

    But two can play that game. Once you’ve experienced this tactic and expect it, it’s very easy to hold your ground, and bring a sense of proportion to the wingnut by emphasizing what is major and what is minor or irrelevant, and exposing their “refutation” as meaningless. They literally don’t know what to say at that point.

    This is the kind of thing that happens when you are arguing with people who have no interest in the truth, and very little experience with it, but have a huge interest in winning. They will come up with any stupid little thing to gain some leverage. By contrast, people who are invested in reality, have to make adult-like judgments of proportion all the time – what matters and what doesn’t. Those who can’t deal with ambiguity and making judgments like this, like children, are left to merely try to win.

  47. erinyes  •  Jan 6, 2011 @11:20 pm

    How true, Moonbat. They’re after Jane Fonda again, my right wing friend sent me one of those “if you care about America” bullshit pass along emails saying she is a traitor never to be forgiven, Jane’s about 73 yrs old now, give it a fuckin’ rest!
    Jesus Christ on a pogo stick……

  48. Felicity  •  Jan 7, 2011 @3:16 pm

    moonbat – your last paragraph (10:44 pm) is a perfect definition of sophistry.

    erinyes – speaking of Jesus, what to make of the birther heckler in the House during the reading of the Constitution (which Boehner skipped out on, by the way.) Two statements questioning Obama’s citizenship, okay, but the final “Help us Jesus”? Is there some sort of religious issue afoot in the birther’s belief that Obama is not a citizen? (Maybe maha can figure it out.)

  49. Dan  •  Jan 7, 2011 @3:25 pm

    “I’ve been in a number of arguments with wingnuts who thought they were being logically triumphant when some tiny aspect of my argument was found to be wrong, which in their black and white minds meant the whole argument was wrong.” – Moonbat

    You forgot the part where, even if you demonstrate without a shadow of a doubt that their ENTIRE argument is false, it is still true in their minds, because some political charlatan told them so…

  50. Comrade Rutherford  •  Jan 7, 2011 @6:04 pm

    “if teabaggers ever get unchecked power, the U.S. will become a totalitarian nightmare even Orwell could not have imagined.”

    Hasn’t this been the goal of the Republican Party since they lost WWII?

  51. Porlock Junior  •  Jan 9, 2011 @10:37 pm

    Belatedly, some constitutional questions.

    >>>The software messes up the formatting in ways I don’t deign to try to figure out. Blank lines appear at semi-random and do NOT indicate any particular organization or emphasis in the text.

    1. By whose power was the Constitution established?
    a) King George III
    b) George Washington
    c) The states
    d) The people
    e) God
    You are expected to provide backing for your answers from the Constitution, in this as in other questions.

    2a.What constitutes the supreme law of the land, to which the judges in every state are bound? (Incomplete answers get very small partial credit.)

    2b. Can such law be overridden by the constitution or laws of any state?

    3. In what places in the Constitution is there explanatory language telling the specific purpose of a provision?
    Hint: See the Second Amendment. What other places, if any?

    4a. There was a provision that counted three-fifths of the number of slaves, as compared with the whole number of all free citizens. What, specifically, did this provision have to do with?

    4b. Did that provision directly name “slaves”? Persons of some particular race?

    4b. What was the actual purpose and effect of the three-fifths provision?
    a) To decrease the political power of slaves
    b) To increase the political power of slaves
    c) To decrease the political power of slave owners
    d) To increase the political power of slave owners
    e) Not really any of above, because there is a flaw in this question itself.

    5. Where in the Constitution does each of the following phrases occur?
    a) Balance of powers
    b) Executive privilege
    c) Separation of powers
    d) Wall of separation between church and state

    6. In the body of the Constitution as it was originally adopted, laying out its purpose and the laws and procedures of the nation, where is religion mentioned directly? Where is any practice that is specifically religious mentioned? Where is a distinction between any religion and any other mentioned? If there is such a place, is any preference given to one over another?

    7. Name as many things as you can that States cannot do. No one is expected to make a complete list.

    BONUS QUESTIONS: Reading the plain words of the Constitution and applying them to matters of fact.

    1. Is torture illegal in the United States of America? (Here and now, not hypothetically or by debatable reasoning in some court)

    If there are any conditions in which it is actually illegal, what are they; or what are the specific exemptions from that law?

    I seem to have forgotten at least one, so I’ll knock it off. Now I’ll submit this, and then re-post with answers. I reserve the right to add the things that I’m reminded of in doing this.

  52. Porlock Junior  •  Jan 9, 2011 @11:35 pm

    Here, if this gets posted right, are the questions and answers together.

    1. By whose power was the Constitution established?
    a) King George III
    b) George Washington
    c) The states
    d) The people
    e) God
    You are expected to provide backing for your answers from the Constitution, in this as in other questions.

    ANS: Always start with an easy one! Start reading the document, and you have your anwer in the first three words.

    d) “We the People of the United States … do ordain and establish this Constitution for the
    United States of America.” — Preamble

    Does this mean that all the people who have told you that the Federal Constitution is a creation of the States were wrong, including Thomas Jefferson? Yes, beyond quibble.

    2a.What constitutes the supreme law of the land, to which the judges in every state are bound? (Incomplete answers get very small partial credit.)

    ANS: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in
    Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the
    Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the
    Judges in every State shall be bound thereby” — Article 6

    2b. Can such law be overridden by the constitution or laws of any state?

    ANS: No. “…the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

    3. In what places in the Constitution is there explanatory language telling the specific purpose of a provision?
    Hint: See the Second Amendment. What other places, if any?

    ANS: The Preamble, which explains the basis for the existence and authority of the whole Constitution. I may be wrong here; please correct me if there is another. Otherwise, see Bonus Question 2.

    4a. There was a provision that counted three-fifths of the number of slaves, as compared with the whole number of all free citizens. What, specifically, did this provision have to do with?

    ANS: Computing the number of representatives allowed to each state in the House of Representatives. Article 1, section 2.
    4b. Did that provision directly name “slaves”? Persons of some particular race?

    ANS: No. It says “all other Persons” after naming those who are counted and those not to be counted at all. (Hey, maybe there oughta be a question for that last bunch.)

    4b. What was the actual purpose and effect of the three-fifths provision?
    a) To decrease the political power of slaves
    b) To increase the political power of slaves
    c) To decrease the political power of slave owners
    d) To increase the political power of slave owners
    e) Not really any of above, because there is a flaw in this question itself.

    ANS: As you can guess, E. The *reason* for E: though two of the choices are absurd, the other two are comparative, and it depends what you compare to.
    To go down the list:
    a) and b) are hopeless, because slaves could not vote; no one in their families could vote (so let’s have no nonsense about their counting women and children who couldn’t vote); they could never become voters; there was no one recognized by law or tradition to represent their interests politically. Three-fifths of nothing is nothing, which is not an increase or a decrease.
    c) Counting the slaves, who had no political power whatsoever, would produce an increase in the power of the slave-owning states relative to free states. Someone would get this power, and that would be the people with political power within those states, who were the slave owners. Hence, three-fifths would reduce that power.
    d) However, consider giving the number of slaves the same weight as any beings with no political rights: none of the rights, responsibilities, or privileges of a citizen of a free Republic; not even the rights that an alien visiting from any civilized country had either here or in his homeland, whether a subject of the King of England or of the Emperor of Japan; in short, the same weight given to a mule, which enjoyed the same legal status. Relative to that, the three-fifths granted an increase in power to the slave owners.

    Bonus question: Is 3/5 closer to 1 (the slave-owners’ preference) or 0 ( the free states’ preference?

    5. Where in the Constitution does each of the following phrases occur?
    a) Balance of powers
    b) Executive privilege
    c) Separation of powers
    d) Wall of separation between church and state

    ANS:
    a) Nowhere
    b) Nowhere
    c) Nowhere
    d) Nowhere

    6. In the body of the Constitution as it was originally adopted, laying out its purpose and the laws and procedures of the nation, (a)where is religion mentioned directly? (b) Where is any practice that is specifically religious mentioned? (c) Where is a distinction between any religion and any other mentioned? If there is such a place, is any preference given to one over another?

    (a) “[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” — Article 6

    (Bonus question: Why did these precise 18th-century lawmakers say “ever” rather than simply banning it as it bans other things?)

    (b) An Oath, which is a religious act, is mentioned in three places: Article 1, section 3; Article 2, section 1; Article 6.

    (c) None directly; but for each of the religious acts mentioned in (b), the Constitution directly offers a non-religious Affirmation as being equally valid. This is a recognition of a religious difference and an explicit refusal to prefer one over the other.

    7. Name as many things as you can that States cannot do. No one is expected to make a complete list.

    ANS: Oh, gee, I’ve gotta break for dinner. Article 1 section 10 gives a huge list. I count 9 in the first paragraph.
    To be continued.

    BONUS QUESTIONS: Reading the plain words of the Constitution and applying them to matters of fact.

    1. Is torture illegal in the United States of America? (Here and now, not hypothetically or by debatable reasoning in some court)

    If there are any conditions in which it is actually illegal, what are they; or what are the specific exemptions from that law?

    I seem to have forgotten at least one, so I’ll knock it off. Now I’ll submit this, and then re-post with answers. I reserve the right to add the things that I’m reminded of in doing this.

  53. Porlock Junior  •  Jan 10, 2011 @2:09 am

    Picking it up from there.

    7. Name as many things as you can that States cannot do. No one is expected to make a complete list.

    ANS: From Article 1 section 10 :
    It can’t “enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters
    of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but
    gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.” I count 9 there, because the laws piece prohibits are disparate and should count for three things.

    Charge import or export duties beyond actual inspection costs without consent of Congress.

    Charge ships a fee for using a port (“duty of Tonnage” simplified). Keep troops or ships of war in time of peace. Enter into an agreement or compact with another State or a foreign power. Engage in war, except responding to actual invasion or imminent danger.

    Other things:
    Fail to honor the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of any other State. — Article 4, section 1

    Deny the privileges and immunities of a citizen to citizens of another state. Fail to hand over a person accused of crime in another state when that state demands it. [Now repealed:] Fail to hand over an escaped slave — Article 4, section 2

    Merge with another State without consent of Congress. — Article 4, section 3

    Deny its citizens a republican form of government. — Article 4, section 4

    Abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. Deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. [Please note: privileges and immunities for citizens; due process and equal protection for persons.] — Amendment 14, clause 1.

    Claim representation in Congress based on a head count that includes people (initially, as a proportion of white males over 21) who are denied voting rights. — Amendment 14, clause 2

    Grant any State office to any person who has violated an oath of office to the United States or any State, without approval of two thirds of each house of Congress. — Amendment 14, clause 3

    Assume or pay any debt incurred in rebellion against the United States. — Amendment 14, clause 4.

    Abridge the right to vote, on the basis of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. — Amendment 15, clause 1.

    Appoint (rather than elect) a Senator, except on an interim basis. — Amendment 17.

    Deny or abridge the right to vote on basis of sex. — Amendment 19.

    Deny the right to vote for Federal offices because of failure to pay a poll tax or the like. — Amendment 24

    Deny voting rights by reason of age to any person of 18 years or older. — Amendment 26

    That’s my list. Please supply any (clear, explicit) prohibitions I’ve missed.

    BONUS QUESTIONS: Reading the plain words of the Constitution and applying them to matters of fact.

    1.(a) Is torture illegal in the United States of America? (Here and now, not hypothetically or by debatable reasoning in some court)

    (b) If there are any conditions in which it is actually illegal, what are they; or what are the specific exemptions from that law?

    ANS:
    (a) Yes. Under Article 6 of the United States Constitution, the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by the United States on 21 Oct 1994, is part of the Supreme Law of the Land; and every judge in every State is legally required to respect it.

    (b) As that law bans all forms of torture by anyone subject to our jurisdiction at any time (after October 1994) in any place, it’s easier to list the exceptions than all the cases. Here is the list of national security emergencies and other extremities in which this United States law allows an exemption: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” — Part I, Article 2.

    Bonus 2, the one I forgot. The Constitution, like the Declaration of Independence, begins by presenting the justification for its existence. No other part of the Constitution explains its own justification, except Amendment 2, which begins, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, …” [Correction solicited if this statement is wrong.] In light of this unique status, could it be that the statement about the militia was intended by its authors to mean something, and would therefore be relevant to understanding the significance of the amendment?

    ANS: No freaking way, you goddam Commie.

    That last one may need a bit of editing.

    In fact, the whole thing is too verbose and is often rather argumentative and even preachy, though never never tendentious, perish the thought. And the formatting is awful; but thanks for having a good preview feature! So do what you like with it if anything.

  54. Porlock Junior  •  Jan 10, 2011 @2:19 am

    Wow, does calling you a goddam Commie get me put in moderation? Or what?

    Seriously, I might decide to work this up in a place where formatting for clarity is possible. If so, I’ll keep in touch as I amend it 14 or more times. It’s awful dern hard to follow in places as it is.

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