Monthly Archives: August 2016
It’s so fast
Last night I went to see Speed of Light, the second play of Quantum Dragon Theatre’s inaugural season, and I’m going to go ahead and recommend it to anyone who’s ever stayed up late reading science fiction, or hungered for the next book.
I’m saying book because the play reminded me an awful lot of classic SF novels. It has an old-school feel to it, like pre-transistor Heinlein stories. I’d bet serious money that Frank Herbert’s Dune was an influence on the playwright, too.
Speed of Light is set at least 5,000 years into the future, where humanity has spread to five planets and settled there long enough to develop racial distinctions between them. Two of those planets have now fallen to the Feeders, a mindless alien horde that devours all it encounters.
How, exactly, a mindless horde operates spaceships is never explored, and we may well be the victims of propaganda on just how mindless they really are. In a novel I’d expect some more exposition on that, but in a two-hour play I’m perfectly willing to let it slide, especially since there’s already a lot going on in here.
You see, traveling faster than light had been assumed to be impossible for thousands of years, up until people saw the Feeders do it. It then immediately became very important to figure out how it’s done, because the aliens are attacking a third planet and show no signs that they’ll go away after it’s been stripped of all life. Our story follows a mathematical prodigy who’s spent the last ten years working on this problem, and the people around her. Read the rest of this entry
Article 1: Part 3
Another weekend, another chunk of the Constitution. I’m going to try to stagger these with other posts, because if I let this project dominate my blog too much I think I’ll just get frustrated and abandon the project, and I’m finally starting to write with some frequency again.
As usual, please don’t mistake me for any kind of expert. I’m probably learning far more than I’m teaching, here.
Okay, let’s get a little farther in. Read the rest of this entry
The new new problems
The biggest problem I have with writing these days is that the time I feel most able to really sit down and work on something is about the same time I need to be putting on my shoes and going to work. Seriously, that flurry of activity over the weekend started when I woke up early Saturday morning and took a notebook out for coffee.
Apparently in my brain the best conditions for writing are an early start and hot beverages.
It carries over, though. Every morning this week I’ve wanted to write something. Like I’ve got it moving again now and want to keep at it before I lose momentum. I’m posting this from my phone while I’m on the bus just to try to keep that going.
Unfortunately that’s really all I have just now, something to try to keep the momentum going. I have things I want to write about, but they’ll have to wait at least a little longer.
Honestly, I might have managed something quick during breakfast, but I saw a headline that read something like 8 students burned to death for blasphemy and had to go find something soothing to look at.
Article 1, Part 2
Quick note before we begin, once again I want to thank the U. S. Constitution Online site, which has made this much easier than it otherwise would be since I can just copy and paste the relevant parts of the Constitution from them. It sometimes feels like I’m not commenting on the original legal document so much as writing commentary on that website.
As usual, I am not a lawyer or scholar, nor an expert on this in any way.
Ok, let’s get back into this. Read the rest of this entry
Article 1: Part 1
Welcome back to my ongoing series on the Constitution! Like the preamble, my first post was more a mission statement than anything with real content, but I still managed to miss a couple things I wanted to mention.
First is that my primary tools for this project are the U. S. Constitution Online website and my ACLU-printed pocket constitution. I have several more of those pocket books, and if anybody wants one you can either find me in person, or click on that ACLU site and they’ll give you one for free.
I thought there was a second thing, but if so I’ve forgotten it. Oh well, onwards!
My standard disclaimer applies: I am not an expert in any subject, in any way.
Section 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
The first article is about the legislative branch of the government. In fact the first three articles establish the three branches, legislative, executive, and judicial.
It seems likely that starting with Congress was intentional, to draw attention away from one person’s power. Remember that this government was designed to be of and for the people, so most of the power rests with Congress, at least in theory.
Also, note that it says “All legislative Powers”. Only Congress can make laws, not the president, not the courts. But both the executive and judicial branches can have profound effects on laws, as we’ll see in later installments.
Since I’m about to quote the first part to be modified by a later amendment, I’m going to point out that I’ll be following the convention where modified text is (in parentheses and italic), while commentary establishing the nature of the modification is (in parentheses and bold).
Technically this means I’ll be including some stuff that’s not in the original text, but this is probably the best way to do it. I’ll also maintain the original links, since they are useful in many ways.
Section 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
(Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.) (The previous sentence in parentheses was modified by the 14th Amendment, section 2.) The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five and Georgia three.
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
In Section 2 we get to work actually doing stuff. Section 2 is all about the House of Representatives.
I had trouble figuring out what “the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature” is trying to say. After a bit of thinking, it seems to be saying that if you qualify to be an elector for the most numerous branch of the legislature of your state, then you qualify to be an elector for the state. It’s not clear to me if “Elector” in this case just means “person voting in this election” or something else, but it seems the most likely interpretation.
This is the moment when I realize just how ambitious this constitution project of mine is, because I’m having to seriously examine this archaic language cold. I haven’t actually sat down and examined the Constitution with an intent to understand it as a whole since… ever, now that I think of it. I’ve looked things up, and I’ve read it all the way through, but there was always context which narrowed my scope. Having to take a broad view of the entire document really makes it clear how much I don’t understand.
Which is good, however annoying it is. This project is about learning, and I’m doing that.
The second paragraph establishes the requirements to be a Representative. Age, citizen, resident, and that’s it.
Although the old language is harder to understand, I prefer the oldest parts of the Constitution for their brevity. When we get to the amendments you’ll see what I mean, in the 19th century they start getting longer and longer.
Section 2 also contains our first hint of slavery in the infamous three-fifths compromise. I’m interested that they used such indirect language about it, I wonder what the discussions were like leading up to that.
Slavery was a contentious issue at the time, and would remain so right up until it was abolished. When people speak, as some do, of the framers of the constitution as though they were nearly super-humanly wise and all in agreement with each other, remember that this early in the document we’ve established that slaves are 3/5 of a person because the framers could not agree on whether to count them or not.
In fact whether or not slaves counted for population figures was a pretty big deal, with the standard practice being to count them when it was beneficial to your interests and not when it wasn’t. The southern states in particular had large slave populations and wanted them to count for the number of representatives they got in the house, thereby increasing their influence.
So not only were they owning people, they were using them as tokens for power.
What else do we have? Establishing the census, limiting the size of the House and providing provisional numbers until the first census is taken. Then we see that when there’s a vacancy in the House, the state Governor has to have an election to fill it. Finally, the House is obligated to choose its Speaker and officers, and the House has the power of Impeachment.
I’m starting to pick up that 18th century habit of capitalizing nouns. This will probably get worse before it gets better. Also, dig that old-timey spelling of “Chuse”! I kinda like it, shame we went with the double-O instead.
Anyway, this is over 1200 words, so I’m going to end the post here. I’ll try to have Article 1, Section 3 up tomorrow.
Feel free to share your analysis in the comments, and have an excellent day.
We the People
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
So begins the United States Constitution. And so begins my series on that venerated document. Yes, I know I said I didn’t want to dive right into a series, but it was all I could think more or less coherently about.
This was inspired, more than anything else, by something I saw on Facebook, or rather the reactions to it. It was a short explanation of the amendment process, pointing out that Obama can’t repeal the second amendment because it takes two-thirds of congress to change the constitution. And people reacted with surprise. Read the rest of this entry
Ch ch ch Changes
Things are changing around here.
You might even have noticed some changes already. I doubt I’ll be messing around with my site’s design or WordPress theme any time soon, I still like the way it looks, but I’ve become more and more irritated by internet advertising and so I’ve decided to stop being a part of the problem. Read the rest of this entry