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Posts Tagged ‘Constitution

“To treat the founding documents as Scripture would be to become a slave to the past”*…

 

Constitution

 

As historians from James MacGregor Burns to Jill Lepore remind us, the United States was– and is– an experiment.  The Constitution was the collective best effort of the Framers to write the first draft of an operating manual for the society they hoped it to be– a society unique in its time in its commitment to political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people– what Jefferson called “these truths.”

But like any wise group of prototypers, they assumed that their design would be refined through experience, that their “manual” would be updated… though even then Benjamin Franklin shared Jefferson’s worry [see the full title quote below] that American’s might treat their Constitution as unchangeable…

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.  -Benjamin Franklin, letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy (13 November 1789)

The Framers expected– indeed, they counted on– their work being revised…

Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.   -Thomas Jefferson, letter to H. Tompkinson (AKA Samuel Kercheval) (12 July 1816)

Jesse K. Phillips has found a beautifully-current– and equally beautifully-concrete– way to capture the commitment to learning and improving that animated the Framers: he has put the Constitution onto GitHub, the software development platform that hosts reams of (constantly revised) open source code (and that was featured in yesterday’s (Roughly) Daily.)

[Image above: source]

* “To treat the founding documents as Scripture would be to become a slave to the past. ‘Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched,’ Jefferson conceded. But when they do, ‘They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human [and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment].”‘

― From Jill Lepore’s These Truths: A History of the United States

 

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As we hold those truths to be inalienable, we might recall that it was on this date (which is, by the way, Fibonacci Day) in 1644 that John Milton published Areopagitica; A speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, to the Parlament of England.  A prose polemic opposing licensing and censorship, it is among history’s most influential and impassioned philosophical defenses of the principle of a right to freedom of speech and expression.  The full text is here.

409px-Areopagitica_1644bw_gobeirne source

 

 

 

“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me”*…

 

In 1878, W.S. Halsey, Commissioner of Inland Customs, reported on the state of British India’s giant hedge. The hedge had grown to more than 1,100 miles long, he wrote, long enough to stretch from Berlin to Moscow. More than half of the barrier, Halsey reported, was made up of “perfect and good green hedge” or “combined green and dry hedge.” In parts, it was 12 feet tall and 14 feet across.

The British Empire had been working on this giant hedge for at least 30 years. It had, at long last, reached “its greatest extent and perfection,” wrote Roy Moxham in The Great Hedge of IndiaIt was an impressive monument to British power and doggedness. One British official wrote that it “could be compared to nothing else in the world except the Great Wall of China.”

As he reported on the extent and health of the hedge, though, Halsey knew its time was coming to an end. That same year, the empire stopped all funding for the mad project, and it was not long before the hedge had disappeared entirely. When Moxham, an English writer, went looking for it in 1996, he couldn’t find a trace…

The strange, sad tale of a quixotic colonial barrier meant to enforce taxes: “The British Once Built a 1,100-Mile Hedge Through the Middle of India.”

* Donald J. Trump

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As we agree with Mark Twain that, while history never repeats itself, it often rhymes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1639 that the Connecticut General Court adopted The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut— considered by many scholars to be the first written constitution that created a government.

 source

 

Written by LW

January 14, 2018 at 1:01 am

“When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie”*…

 

Internet censorship is a growing phenomenon around the world (c.f., here), perhaps the most severe form of which is the “disconnection” of a country from the global internet altogether…

In January 2011, what was arguably the first significant disconnection of an entire country from the Internet took place when routes to Egyptian networks disappeared from the Internet’s global routing table, leaving no valid paths by which the rest of the world could exchange Internet traffic with Egypt’s service providers. It was followed in short order by nationwide disruptions in Bahrain, Libya, and Syria. These outages took place during what became known as the Arab Spring, highlighting the role that the Internet had come to play in political protest, and heralding the wider use of national Internet shutdowns as a means of control…

After these events, and another significant Internet outage in Syria, this question led a blog post published in November 2012 by former Dyn Chief Scientist Jim Cowie that examined the risk of Internet disconnection for countries around the world, based on the number of Internet connections at their international border. “You can think of this, to [a] first approximation,” Cowie wrote, “as the number of phone calls (or legal writs, or infrastructure attacks) that would have to be performed in order to decouple the domestic Internet from the global Internet.”

Based on our aggregated view of the global Internet routing table at the time, we identified the set of border providersin each country: domestic network providers (autonomous systems, in BGP parlance) who have direct connections, visible in routing, to international (foreign) providers. From that data set, four tiers were defined to classify a country’s risk of Internet disconnection…

Read ’em and weep at “The Migration of Political Internet Shutdowns.”

* Yevgeny Yevtushenko

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As opt for open, we might recall that today is Bill of Rights Day: on this date in 1791, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution were ratified and came into effect.

 source

 

Written by LW

December 15, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves”*…

 

When you think about politics these days, it’s hard to avoid focusing on Donald Trump’s remarkable rise to power and his even more remarkable presidency. It’s even harder to avoid thinking about the scandals swirling around him day to day. It’s not that I don’t think these are important. But they are not the subject of today’s talk.  In this talk, I want to look at the big picture. In this picture, Trump is merely a symptom. He is a symptom of a serious problem with our political and constitutional system.

Because Trump’s method is to provoke outrage and fluster his opponents, many people have wondered whether we are currently in some sort of constitutional crisis.  We are not. Rather, we are in a period of constitutional rot

Yale Law professor Jack Balkin on the importance of not missing the forest for the trees: “Trumping the Constitution.”

[image above, sourced here]

* “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves ; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”   – Thomas Jefferson

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As we batten down the hatches, we might recall that it was on this date in 1788 that the eleven states voted to adopt the new U.S. Constitution, and it was formally ratified; it went into effect on March 4 of the following year.  The two remaining states ratified by 1790.

Page one of the original copy of the Constitution

source

 

Written by LW

June 21, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Caveat lector”*…

 

xkcd

* “Let the reader beware,” Latin phrase

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As we interrogate our sources, we might recall that it was on this date in 1789 that Representative (later, President) James Madison introduced nine amendments to the U.S. Constitution in the House of Representatives; subsequently, Madison added three more, ten of which (including 7 of his original nine) became the Bill of Rights.

Madison, often called “the Father of the Constitution,” created the amendments to appease anti-Federalists on the heels of the oftentimes bitter 1787–88 battle over ratification of the U.S. Constitution– in the drafting of which he had also played a central role.

Madison

source

 

Written by LW

June 8, 2017 at 1:01 am

Bad Santa…

For more merriment, see Sketchy Santas.  (And for another real treat see the masterful Terry Zwigoff film memorialized in the title of this missive.)

As we make a list and check it twice, we might celebrate Virginia’s (the state’s, not the doubting young girl’s) ratification of the Bill of Rights. As the tenth consenting state (of 14 at the time), Virginia pushed the first ten amendments to the Constitution past the two-thirds necessary to take effect; and on this date in 1791, they became law.

(Congress had actually passed 12 amendments in 1789, and sent them to the states for ratification.  As to the two amendments not adopted, the first concerned the mechanics of the population system of representation, while the second prohibited laws varying the payment of congressional members from taking effect until an election intervened. The first was never ratified, while the second was finally ratified more than 200 years later, in 1992.)

The Bill of Rights (source: National Archives)

Written by LW

December 15, 2009 at 1:01 am

Excuses, excuses, excuses…

Why wrack your brain for a credible explanation, when you simply visit Corrupted-Files.com?

Step 1: After purchasing a file, rename the file e.g. Mike_Final-Paper.

Step 2: Email the file to your professor [or boss] along with your “here’s my assignment” email.

Step 3: It will take your professor [ or boss] several hours if not days to notice your file is “unfortunately” corrupted. Use the time this website just bought you wisely and finish that paper!!!

…only $3.95.

Psst– keep this site a secret!

As we hit the snooze button, we might recall that on this date in 1790, The Philadelphia Spelling Book was copyrighted– the first book to be protected under copyright laws passed by Congress  “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution).

Since 1790, copyright (and for that matter, patent) law in the U.S. has strayed beyond that Constitutional purpose  (see, e.g., “Patently Absurd” or “Caution! Pile Up Ahead!“).  Wander over to Creative Commons for a look at an alternative that works– and works in the spirit of the Framers…

source:  Library of Congress

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