Category Archives: Government

Article one, section eight, hut, hut, hut

Article 1 section 8 of the constitution says that “…all Duties, Imposts, and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”  Can you tell me the Supreme Court case where they tried to interpret the meaning of Uniform as used here?

I’m not a lawyer, but the double espresso I just drank has given me the fortitude to take this snap: I would refer you to Knowlton v. Moore 178 U.S. 41 (1900).

Answer Person coerced into the health care reform debate

i intend to make this brief because i know you are a very busy. my friend and i were arguing the core concept of socialism vs. capitalism. he said that if there is no incentive for profit, then no one would do anything (no doctors, lawyers etc…) i have no rebuttal for this argument. i am aware that taking a loss for the better good, like fire dept. and police as well as education is an acceptable loss, but he claims that if everything is private then everything is more efficient and so forth. is there a way i can convince myself and him that a society can exist without the desire for profit and still be efficient (everyone goes to work).

Actually, there are millions of rebuttals to that argument in this country alone.  Ask your professor, librarian, fire fighter, or police officer what motivates them to go to work everyday.  I’d be surprised if any of them said it was to pay for their Bentley.

I’d say your friend’s argument, that no one would do anything without the incentive of profit, is cynical.  What’s more, it sounds like your friend is making a veiled (and lazy) argument against health care reform.  If you include fire and police service, as well as education, in your list of services worth paying for with tax money for the common good, why not health care too?  Tell your friend that making the leap from adding health care to the common good list to making everything socialized is deceptive at best.  In so many ways, health care is more important than any of the other three (fire service, police protection, education).

Constitutionally prohibited laws

Explain the nature of the laws that Congress may not pass
including: writs of habeas corpus; bills of attainder; ex post facto laws

Suspending writs of habeas corpus (with certain exceptions), enacting bills of attainder, and enacting ex post facto laws are prohibited by Ariticle I, Section 9, Clauses 2 and 3 of the U.S. Constitution.  In the annotated version of the Constitution linked to from here, there is much discussion of the legal issues involved.  Please see pages 363 through 371 in the book (pages 309-317 of the .pdf).  As a librarian, Answer Person can’t give any legal interpretation, but the sources noted should lead you to volumes of information on the topics.

President's birthplace

Is it true that OBAMA does not have a valid birht certificate? He was not born in the US. I heard this from someone who said it was true.I want to know the whole truth. What happens if hr does’t?

No, this isn’t true.  President Obama was born in Hawaii, and has a valid birth certificate from there.  You can ignore all of the nut-case blogs fouling up the Internet as well as all the “someones” you hear things from.

President's groceries

Dear Answer Person,Does the president ever do his own grocery shopping? And if he did, how much would it cost for him to go to the grocery store with his security detail?


Nope, they don’t do anything so mundane. Except for publicity tours or when campaigning. Probably more likely for a photo op when they’re at their vacation houses rather than a regular Saturday trip to a Safeway in central Washington. The security detail gets paid a salary wherever he goes, so this or that meaningless publicity stop doesn’t matter. Politicians are always being asked what a gallon of milk costs, but I think I’d rather have them looking at things in a little more macro way.

Absentee ballots

Do American Boards of Elections always count absentee ballots? Or are there circumstances where they would decide they did not need to count the absentee ballots that year?

Yes, they always get counted. Answer Person could find no evidence of a state or county that doesn’t. Sort of the same reason why they don’t just stop counting votes when someone gets to a total of 51% of the registered voters and thus becomes mathematically impossible to beat (unless, of course, you’re talking about the US Electoral College system for presidential elections …).

35 pence a minute

Why are phone calls so ridiculously expensive in Europe, particularly land line calls in Britain? What is the US doing so well that Europeans are not?

ANSWER PERSON RESPONDS: There are different regulatory structures and historical backgrounds between the telecommunications systems in these different places. Note that, in general, mobile phones are cheaper in Europe while wire phones are more expensive.

One article (search the database Historical Abstracts) suggests that the government owned telegraph service in Britain tried to limit competition from the fledgling phone companies in the late 19th century, making their development more difficult and expensive. Reformers in the USA pushed to regulate the privately owned telegraph monopoly, Western Union, and there were less restrictions on the development of telephone service and a regulatory environment that forced cheaper rates.