Daily Archives: July 11, 2015

Things That Are Not In the U.S. Constitution

The Air Force

The Constitution was ratified in 1787, long, long before the advent of the airplane. It provides, specifically, for a navy and an army in Article 1, Section 8. Though they were aware of lighter-than-air flying craft, the Framers could not have reasonably provided for an Air Force. It should be noted at the outset that the Constitution does not provide, specifically, for the other uniformed services, the Marines and Coast Guard. The Marines, however, as an arm of the Navy, could be excepted; and the Constitution does provide for “naval forces,” and the Coast Guard could thus be excepted. How, then, do we except the Air Force? The first way is via common sense — the Framers certainly did not intend to preclude the use of new technology in the U.S. military, and because of the varied roles of the Air Force, it makes sense for it to be a separate branch. The second (and less desirable) way is historical — the Air Force originated as the Army Air Corps, an arm of the Army, similar to the Navy/Marine relationship. Basically, unless your interpretation of the Constitution freezes it in 1789, the Air Force is a perfectly constitutional branch of the U.S. military.
Thanks to James Severin for the idea.

Congressional Districts

Congressional Districts divide almost every state in the United States into two or more chunks; each district should be roughly equal in population throughout the state and indeed, the entire country. Each district elects one Representative to the House of Representatives. The number of districts in each state is determined by the decennial census, as mandated by the Constitution. But districts are not mentioned in the Constitution. The United States Code acknowledges districting, but leaves the “how’s” to the states (gerrymandering, however, is unconstitutional [as seen in Davis v Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109 (1986), though, the intent of gerrymandering is difficult to prove]).
Thanks to Marko Liias for the idea.

The Electoral College

The concept of the presidential elector is certainly in the Constitution, but never is the group of people collectively referred to as “The Electoral College.” Article 1, Section 2 speaks of “Electors,” as do several of the Amendments, but never the college itself. The term comes from common usage in the early 1800’s, in the same way that the “College of Cardinals” elects a pope, and is based on the Latin word collegium, which simply refers to a body of people acting as a unit. The term “College of Electors” is used in U.S. law, at 3 USC 4. For more on the Electoral College, see the topic page.

Executive Orders

Executive Orders have two main functions: to modify how an executive branch department or agency does its job (rule change) or to modify existing law, if such authority has been granted to the President by Congress. Executive orders are not mentioned by the Constitution, but they have been around a long, long time. George Washington issued several Presidential Proclamations, which are similar to EO’s (Proclamations are still issued today). EO’s and Proclamations are not law, but they have the effect of statutes. A typical modern Proclamation might declare a day to be in someone’s honor. Historically, they have had broader effect, such as the Emancipation Proclamation. A typical EO might instruct the government to do no business with a country we are at war with. Executive orders are subject to judicial review, and can be declared unconstitutional. Today, EO’s and Proclamations are sequentially numbered. The average president issues 58 EO’s a year. As of March 13, 1936, all EO’s must be published in the Federal Register. The first to have been so published was #7316, by President Roosevelt.
Thanks to Richard Barr for the idea.

Executive Privilege

Executive privilege is a right to withhold information from the legislative and judicial branches by the President or by one of the executive departments. There is question of whether the right exists at all, a question that has lingered since the very first President, George Washington, asserted executive privilege in his very first term. Most times, executive privilege is asserted for purported national security reasons. Washington, however, asserted the privilege when the House requested details of the Jay Treaty — his rationale was that the House has no role in treaty-making and hence no right to request the documents. In modern times, Bill Clinton refused to simply comply with an order to appear before a grand jury, and instead negotiated terms under which he would appear. Richard Nixon’s is the most infamous use of executive privilege, and while the Supreme Court, in U.S. v Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), recognized that there exists a need for some secrecy in the executive branch, but that the secrecy cannot be absolute. The Court ordered Nixon to turn over tapes and documents that a special prosecutor had subpoenaed. More recently, the minutes and records of Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force were requested and denied based on executive privilege. This case made its way to the Supreme Court, where the Court deflected the case and sent it back to a lower court for further adjudication.
Thanks to Pat Roche for the idea.

Freedom of Expression

It is often said that one of the rights protected by the 1st Amendment is the freedom of expression. This site, in fact, uses that term in its quick description of the amendment: “Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression.” But “expression” is not used in the amendment at all. This term has come to be used as a shorthand, a term of art, for three of the freedoms that are explicitly protected: speech, petition, and assembly. While the use of “freedom of expression” is ubiquitous in this area of 1st Amendment study, it is important to note exactly what “freedom of expression” refers to — let this be such a note.
Thanks to baf for the idea.

(Absolute) Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution does protect the freedom of speech of every citizen, and even of non-citizens — but only from restriction by the Congress (and, by virtue of the 14th Amendment, by state legislatures, too). There are plenty of other places where you could speak but where speech can and is suppressed. For example, freedom of speech can be and often is restricted in a work place, for example: employers can restrict your right to speak in the work place about politics, about religion, about legal issues, even about Desperate Housewives. The same restrictions that apply to the government do not apply to private persons, employers, or establishments. For another example, the government could not prohibit the sale of any newspaper lest it breech the freedom of the press. No newsstand, however, must carry every paper against its owners’ wishes.
Thanks to Dave Pullin for the idea.

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs

According to a 2002 Columbia Law School study, nearly two-thirds of persons polled thought that this phrase came from the Constitution or might have been crafted by the Framers. This phrase, however, originates from Karl Marx, and was written in 1875’s Critique of the Gotha Program. It is considered by many to be a brief summation of the principles of communism.
Thanks to Heinrich Patenfleisch for the idea.


It has often been seen on the Internet that to find God in the Constitution, all one has to do is read it, and see how often the Framers used the words “God,” or “Creator,” “Jesus,” or “Lord.” Except for one notable instance, however, none of these words ever appears in the Constitution, neither the original nor in any of the Amendments. The notable exception is found in the Signatory section, where the date is written thusly: “Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven”. The use of the word “Lord” here is not a religious reference, however. This was a common way of expressing the date, in both religious and secular contexts. This lack of any these words does not mean that the Framers were not spiritual people, any more than the use of the word Lord means that they were. What this lack of these words is expositive of is not a love for or disdain for religion, but the feeling that the new government should not involve itself in matters of religion. In fact, the original Constitution bars any religious test to hold any federal office in the United States. For more information, see the Religion Topic Page.
Thanks to James MacDonald for the idea.

Impeachment Means Removal From Office

The word “impeachment” and the phrase “removal from office” are not synonymous. For a President, judge, or other federal official to be removed from office against their will (because resignation is always an option), they must be impeached. Impeachment consists of three phases — the passage of the impeachment by the House, a trial by the Senate, and the imposition of a penalty if the Senate convicts. For members of the executive branch, removal from office is automatic upon conviction. The Senate may also decide to prevent the person from holding any other public office (see Article 2, Section 4). For any other impeachable officer (including judges), there are basically two punishments, which provide four options: the Senate can do nothing; they can remove the person from their office; they can prevent the person from ever holding any office in the federal government again, or both (see Article 1, Section 3).

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

First, it should be pointed out that if you did it, you’re guilty, no matter what. So you’re not innocent unless you’re truly innocent. However, our system presumes innocence, which means that legally speaking, even the obviously guilty are treated as though they are innocent, until they are proven otherwise.

The concept of the presumption of innocence is one of the most basic in our system of justice. However, in so many words, it is not codified in the text of the Constitution. This basic right comes to us, like many things, from English jurisprudence, and has been a part of that system for so long, that it is considered common law. The concept is embodied in several provisions of the Constitution, however, such as the right to remain silent and the right to a jury.

It’s a Free Country

A commonly heard mantra is, “Read your Constitution — it’s a free country, you know!” Well, read your Constitution — it never says it is a free country. The implication of the aphorism is that in the United States, you can do whatever you want to do, and the Constitution is there to ensure that. It is certainly true that the Constitution protects many civil rights. The 1st Amendment ensures freedom of religious choice and freedom of speech, but those things are not without limit. You cannot create a religion that allows you to kill someone without civil punishment; you cannot use libelous or slanderous words without recourse. There are other things that restrict freedom — from the ability to suspend habeas corpus to the issuance of patents. Certainly the United States is a very free country, but it is not totally free — which is actually a good thing, unless you actually like anarchy. It is interesting to note that in his confirmation hearings in 2005, John Roberts said several times, “It’s a free country.” It will be interesting to see how this enters into his judicial philosophy on the Court.
Thanks to John Powers and Brad Cottel for the idea.

Judicial Review

We often hear about the Supreme Court striking down a law or a provision in a law, or, more often, reaffirming some law or provision. Take a look in the Constitution — judicial review, as this is known, is nowhere to be found. It seems like a perfectly normal action — after all, what kind of check does the Judicial Branch have on the other two branches if laws and orders cannot be declared unconstitutional. But judicial review is not specifically mentioned. So how did judicial review come to be? In the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), Chief Justice John Marshall declared a federal law, the Judiciary Act of 1789, to be unconstitutional, and thus null and void. This was the first time a Supreme Court ruling overturned a law.
Thanks to Spooky for the idea.

Jury of Peers

People often say “I have a right to have my case heard by a jury of my peers!” when there is no such right in the Constitution. The Constitution does take up the issue of juries, however. It is the nature of the jury which is not in the Constitution. In Article 3, Section 2, the Constitution requires that all criminal trials be heard by a jury. It also specifies that the trial will be heard in the state the crime was committed. The 6th Amendment narrows the definition of the jury by requiring it to be “impartial.” Finally, the 7th Amendment requires that certain federal civil trials guarantee a jury trial if the amount exceeds twenty dollars.

Note that no where is a jury “of peers” guaranteed. This is important for some historical and contemporary reasons. Historically, the notion of a peer is one of social standing — in particular, in a monarchy such as the one the United States grew up from, commoners would never stand in judgement of lords and barons. Along these same lines, since suffrage and jury service have always been closely tied (and in the beginnings of the United States it was typical for only white, male, property-owners to be allowed the vote), any combination of gender, race, and economic status would be judged by only one kind of jury, hardly by “peers.”

Today, the American ideal dictates that we are all peers of one another, that regardless of gender, race, religion, social status, or any other division (except age), we are all equal. In this ideal, since we are all peers, a guarantee of a jury of ones peers would be redundant. While some argue with this ideal, it is the most democratic way to approach the subject. Juries need only be impartial, and not made up of one’s peers, else the jury system would be unworkable.
Thanks to James Bishop for the idea and to Clive Wilson for ideas for further explanation.

continue www.usconstitution.net/constnot.html

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Greek debt crisis: Goldman Sachs could be sued for helping country hide debts when it joined euro

Goldman Sachs faces the prospect of potential legal action from Greece over the complex financial deals in 2001 that many blame for its subsequent debt crisis.

A leading adviser to debt-riven countries has offered to help Athens recover some of the vast profits made by the investment bank.

The Independent has learnt that a former Goldman banker, who has advised indebted governments on recovering losses made from complex transactions with banks, has written to the Greek government to advise that it has a chance of clawing back some of the hundreds of millions of dollars it paid Goldman to secure its position in the single currency.

The development came as Greece edged towards a last-minute deal with its creditors which will keep it from crashing out of the single currency.

The deal is based on fresh economic reform proposals submitted by Athens which bear a striking similarity to the creditors’ offer rejected by the Greek people in a referendum last Sunday – sparking claims that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has effectively executed a huge U-turn in order to avoid a catastrophic “Grexit”.

continue http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/greek-debt-crisis-goldman-sachs-could-be-sued-for-helping-country-hide-debts-when-it-joined-euro-10381926.html

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Tennessee Legalizes Breaking Into Cars To Save Pets


It is now legal in Tennessee to break into a car to save an animal. A new state law extended the existing immunity for ‘Good Samaritans’ who save children from dying of overheating to pet rescuers as well, reportedly the first US state to do so.

Introduced by state representative David Hawk (R-Greeneville), House Bill 537 “adds animals to the existing procedure that confers immunity from liability on a person for damage caused by breaking into a locked vehicle for the purpose of extracting a child in danger.”

continue http://worldtruth.tv/tennessee-legalizes-breaking-into-cars-to-save-pets/

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Teen truckers? Bill would drop big-rig driver age to 18

Parents may hesitate to hand teens the keys to the family car, but Congress is proposing to allow drivers as young as 18 to get behind the wheel of big rigs on the nation’s interstates

Federal regulations currently require drivers be at least 21 before they can drive commercial trucks across state lines, but a bill introduced this week by Republican senators would allow contiguous states that join together in “compacts” to drop the age threshold to 18 for interstate trips. There is no limit on the number of states that could join the compacts.

After four years, the Transportation secretary is supposed to report to Congress on whether teens have “an equivalent level of safety” in comparison with older truckers.

In 2013, all drivers ages 18-20 had a fatal crash involvement rate, per 100,000 licensed drivers, that was 66 percent higher than drivers who were age 21 years or older, according to the Transportation Department’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, although the total number of crash deaths among teens has been declining since 2002.

The change was sought by the trucking industry to help address a shortage of truck drivers. The American Trucking Associations estimates that the current shortage of drivers is roughly 35,000 to 40,000, but because of retirements and individuals leaving the industry, trucking companies will need to recruit nearly 100,000 new drivers a year over the next decade to keep pace with the country’s freight needs.

continue http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_TEEN_TRUCKERS

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Soft 3D-Printed Robot Propels Itself With Explosionsninite

Pneumatics fuel the jump. First, one more more of the legs inflates, angling the robot in the direction it wants to go. Then the robot releases oxygen and butane inside its soft belly. With a spark, this explodes, sending the belly blasting outwards, hurtling the robot into the air. It’s similar to the mechanism that lets this soft robot play beer pong, but a lot more explodey.

To make the best pneumatic jumping robot, the researchers calculated results for three variants: one with a flexible body, one with a rigid body, and one whose body transitioned from rigid to flexible. The completely flexible robot was determined to be a poor jumper based on calculations alone, so the researchers instead tested just the rigid and gradient versions. The rigid robot jumped the highest, but it also crashed the hardest when it landed. The gradient robot, instead, survived over 100 jumps.
continue http://www.popsci.com/soft-robot-moves-explosions

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Obama Administration land grab 1 mil. acres for “new national monuments”


Something smells fishy…

Top Republicans on Friday accused President Obama of a “surreptitious land grab” after the administration claimed more than 1 million acres in California, Texas, and Nevada, designating the land as new national monuments.

Mr. Obama formally designated the land Friday afternoon.

With the move, Mr. Obama has established or expanded 19 national monuments, taking 260 million acres of land and placing it under the control of the federal government. Critics say the administration simply wants to expand government control across the country.

“This surreptitious land grab reveals that the Obama Administration will stop at nothing to lock up more and more land, with the stroke of a pen. I condemn this shameful power move, which makes states and citizens fearful that the federal government can invade at any time to seize more lands like bandits in the night,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“How this decree impacts people and their livelihoods — including public safety, water rights, economic development, recreation and grazing — should be handled by Congress before a designation, not after the fact. Once again, the Obama administration has put politics above people. Now, Congress is left to fix the mess made by the White House,” Mr. Bishop said.

continue http://washingtonweeklynews.com/obama-administration-claimed-more-than-1-million-acres-in-ca-tx-and-nv-designating-the-land-as-new-national-monuments/

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Anthrax probe after mysterious bison deaths in Montana

Investigation after mysterious bison deaths

Bison in Yellowstone Park Photo: Cultura RM/Alamy
 Investigators are probing whether anthrax played a role in the mysterious deaths of more than a dozen bison at an American Indian reservation in Montana, the state veterinarian said on Thursday.

Marty Zaluski said the bison, which have died since the start of the July 4 weekend at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, may have succumbed to anthrax. But he said more testing was needed to confirm what he emphasized was an early suspicion.

Anthrax bacteria can be found naturally in soils but the infectious and sometimes deadly disease it can cause is rare in humans and animals in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Spores of naturally occurring anthrax can lie dormant in the environment for years without being ingested or breathed in by grazing livestock or wild animals, according to the CDC.

continue http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11730374/Anthrax-probe-after-mysterious-bison-deaths-in-Montana.html

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10 Most Overlooked Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

Conventional medical wisdom only recognizes the most extreme version of adrenal fatigue known as Addison’s disease. Often connected to a severe autoimmune disease, about 4 out of 100,000 people are diagnosed with Addison’s, making it extremely rare. A more subtle version of the disease called non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, or adrenal fatigue, is not an official medical condition as typical testing methods do not measure low hormonal levels caused from depleted adrenal glands. Thus, when patients experience symptoms related to low adrenal levels and seek treatment, they are often sent home with no diagnosis as or a misdiagnosis resulting in unnecessary pharmaceutical intervention.

However, with holistic health practitioners and an increasing body of Medical Doctors leading the way, more and more health care professionals are acknowledging the existence of adrenal fatigue and the subsequent affects it has on our overall health. Adrenal fatigue

continue http://www.realfarmacy.com/adrenal-fatigue/

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Man with selfie stick films himself being pickpocketed

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Boehner wants review of Confederate symbols in U.S. Capitol

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Louisiana Law Makes ‘Saggy Pants’ a Criminal Offense


A Louisiana law introduced in the parish of Jefferson Davis makes it a crime for people to wear their pants in any way that can be defined by police as “sagging.”

We contacted the police in Jefferson Davis parish, and asked for specifics. They told us “anything that is too low.”

We asked them what “too low” meant. They seemed to be short on answers.

But local police jurors unanimously passed an ordinance which makes it illegal to appear in a public place with pants that are “below the waist” or which expose the “skin” below the waist, or “undergarments.”

If that sounds well-defined to you, you haven’t seen how this plays out in practice.

Citizens of the parish – particularly members of the African American community – tell us that the “waist” is an ill-defined concept that gives the police authority to issue you a citation if your pants are simply sitting loosely on your waist, without a belt.

Even the smallest amount of boxers or briefs sticking above the pants-line can be defined by police as “criminal.”

Police Juror Steve Eastman told local reporters that “saggy pants have been a long-running problem” in the Louisiana parish.

“I had complaints from security guards around the courthouse that there was issues with people not being respectfully dressed in the courtroom area,” he said in an interview with local KPLC.


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The Quiet War Squirrels Are Waging on U.S. Stock Exchanges

On Wednesday, a computer glitch caused trading to stop at the New York Stock Exchange for more than half of the time markets were supposed to be open. They say that new technologies break in new ways, and that was the case yesterday, but they are also not immune to breaking in old ways: Twice, U.S. exchanges have been halted by … squirrels.

In 1987, a squirrel—through methods that remain mysterious nearly 30 years later—damaged the electrical system at a complex in Trumbull, Connecticut, where many of NASDAQ’s computers were at the time. This led to an 82-minute shutdown that affected exchanges around the country and is estimated to have forced NASDAQ to trade at about 85-percent capacity.

That squirrel died, but its legacy lived on: In 1994, another mischievous Trumbull squirrel caused a similar disruption after gnawing on a power line. This development, along with other shutdowns around that time, left the chairman of the House subcommittee that manages securities trading “deeply concerned” about NASDAQ’s overall stability.

continue http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/07/squirrels-trading-new-york-stock-exchange/398108/

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4 Signs Your Phone is Hacked

4 Signs Your Mobile Phone is Hacked

Computer hacking is common, however can your phone get hacked? I have a lot of sensitive information on my smartphone and always get worried with this thought “can hackers hack my phone?“.

Sometimes an android or iPhone starts acting weird and users fail to understand the root cause behind it as they are not using their phones any differently than usual. While some people still ignore it, if you find your phone behaving a little odd, then take some time out to figure out the problem and fix it instead of ignoring it.

The main reason why you should be alert about your phone’s behaviour is that your phone might be hacked and your phone’s privacy may be breached. Hence, the question arises that how do you find out if your phone is actually hacked or just showing some tantrums on its own.

While there are many other signs and symptoms, following are the most common ones that tell your phone may be hacked:

High Phone Bills

Sometimes the bills made on your behalf can be unnoticeable in the beginning but when you figure it out, it might be too late. So, it is a wise idea to develop a habit of constantly checking your phone bill at least once a week or a month and calculate how much you have spent.

Often malware are designed to send charity/donation type messages that get charged on users’ phones and the money sent is deposited in stealer’s accounts. If you often donate through phone for charities, then make sure to remember how much you donated or try to maintain a record for each donation to save yourself from being looted.

continue http://www.fromdev.com/2015/07/phone-hacked-signs.html

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‘Free’ Windows 10 Now Looks A Terrible Deal

Windows 10 is famously ‘free’, but Microsoft has been worryingly silent about just how free it really is. Now, only 17 days before release, leaks suggest ‘free’ Windows 10 might not be a good deal at all…

The news comes from ComputerWorld which attained Microsoft internal slides that strongly suggest many Windows 10 owners will have to start paying to receive updates within two years. The key lines ComputerWorld discovered are:

“Revenue allocated is deferred and recognized on a straight-line basis over the estimated period the software upgrades are expected to be provided by estimated device life…. [The estimated device life] can range from two to four years.”

‘Device life’ is the key phrase here. Microsoft has already stated revenue earned from Windows 10 must be deferred because of the free upgrade model (cash isn’t taken upfront), but it repeatedly stressed Windows 10 owners can expect to get free updates for the “supported lifetime of the device”.

The problem is Microsoft hadn’t defined how long the ‘supported lifetime of the device’ will be and now we see it: “two to four years”.

continue http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2015/07/10/free-windows-10-charges/

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Indonesian mud volcano probably human-triggered

People praying for the eruption to stop in 2007. The buildings peeking through the mud had been factories.
Mark Tingay

In late May 2006, an unusual disaster befell part of the Indonesian island of Java: out of the blue, the area was flooded by a mud volcano. Not a mudflow racing down your typical spits-fire-and-ash volcano, but a natural eruption of mud.

It’s been erupting ever since. Almost 40,000 people have now been displaced by the flood of mud, and almost $3 billion in damages and associated costs (like levee construction to limit the flooded area). The obvious question on everyone’s mind has been what triggered this strange disaster, since there was no history of mud eruptions in the area. This goes beyond academic curiosity as, despite a suspicious earthquake, it seems the most likely culprit was human activity.

Just two days before the eruption began, there was an even worse natural disaster in the region. A magnitude 6.3 earthquake, centered less than 300 kilometers away, killed almost 6,000 people. Although a two-day delay would be a little difficult to explain, one hypothesis for the mud eruption was that the mud was created by liquefaction— where earthquake-driven shaking turns susceptible sediments into mobile muds.

continue http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/07/indonesian-mud-volcano-probably-human-triggered/

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