Brushing Up On The Constitution (part 1)

(Welcome to those linking in from RadioPatriots.)

When it comes to Constitutional scholarship, I'll be the first to admit that I had a very poor childhood. So, in an attempt to brush up on that knowledge, I'm going to do a post or few on the Constitution. If I do it right, it ought to be informative and insightful... and if I do it wrong, you're all welcome to laugh at me in the comments section. (Please remember that I have dictatorial control over that section, however. This is not the Republic of Please Make It Clear.)

The text of the Constitution can be found on the Library of Congress website, amongst other places. If you don't like that version, the one at Wikipedia is more reader-friendly. And if you don't like that one either, Google is always your friend. Anyway, let's start with Article One, Section One, shall we?

Article One, Section One:
ALL legislative powers, herein grated, shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Sounds simple enough. The document is going to contain specific powers to be given to the House and Senate. The powers in question, then, had to belong to someone or something else before this. In other words, the states, in agreeing to this section, agreed to give up some of their powers to the federal government, while maintaining others themselves.

Moving right along, then...

Article One, Section Two:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by all 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 appointed among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to the 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 taxes, three fifths of all other persons. 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 choose three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantation 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 choose their Speaker and other officers, and shall have the sole power of impeachment.

The members of the House will be elected by the people of the state which they represent. The second part of that sentence is tricky, though. What it's essentially saying is that any elector allowed by the law of their state to vote for officers for that state's largest legislative body may also vote for their representatives in the House of Representatives. In other words, the qualifications are left up to the states. (Well, by and large. There are a few amendments on down the line that modify those qualifications on a federal level.)

The second portion (clause) of A1.S2 is clear enough, setting limits on who may be considered for election to the House. Basically, that they be of a certain age (25 years), have a certain length of citizenship (7 years), and be a resident of the state for which they would serve in the House.

A1.S2.C3 deals with the number of representatives per state, as well as a means of direct taxation of the states based on the number of people in each state (rather than by any measure of income or production of the state). To quote from the Wikipedia entry, "Under Section Two, the amount of direct taxes that may be collected from any state was tied directly to its share of representatives. On the basis of this requirement, the income tax was found unconstitutional in 1895, as it was not apportioned among the states." The third clause also designated numbers of representatives for each state before a census could be made, and gives a minimum number of people per one representative, but surprisingly (to me, anyway), no maximum value.

A1.S2.C4 makes a straightforward allowance for the state to go about filling vacancies in its representative body. In other words, since these people are there to do the work of the states, it is the job of the states to see that their representative positions are filled.

A1.S2.C5 is another plain statement of the House of Representatives' powers, being that they choose their own officers, and that they hold the power to call impeachment proceedings. About the only curiosity here is that the power to choose their officers and the power to call impeachment aren't included as separate clauses, since I can't see any particular reason to tie them together.

Next time will be the Senate, and Elections. I can tell already that this is going to take quite some time.

Japanese of the Week

面倒臭い (mendoukusai) adj. - bother(some) to do; tiresome

In a more relaxed form of speech, this becomes mendoukuse- instead.

I think I may have nailed down how to add audio to these, but we'll see. It may turn out to be mendoukusai, after all.


Again With The Excessive Regulatory Instinct

The obligatory link: Law Would Ban IPods When Crossing Street

I first read about this one yesterday, and decided instead to go with the Missouri story about the busybody who wanted to make prison trips mandatory for 9th graders. That said, this is just as worthy of attention, because it's a symptom of the same legislative disease. In this case, trying to legislate common sense. More specifically, trying to micro-manage behavior through legislation.

Whatever happened to freedom, anyway? I'd submit to you, the reader, that it primarily went out of fashion around the same time personal responsibility bit the dust. ... Now, I know what you're thinking. "I take care of my responsibilities, so why shouldn't I be allowed the freedoms that go with them?" The simple answer is that too many people don't, or won't, take care of such things. After all, it's easier in many respects to have others do things for you, if you can convince them to. And in this case, there are people who don't need convincing. These, of course, are the legislators, who believe that by taking better care of you (and in most cases, reducing your freedoms at the same time), they stand a better chance of being reelected.

Here's the trick in the whole thing. Carving out specifics so that people who actually want their freedoms keep them, while people who want to be taken care of instead get that is difficult. It would be both actual work, and a pain to get applied anywhere near accurately. The easy solution (and yes, even Congresses federal or state prefer the easy way out of things, by and large) is to just blanket the laws and restrictions on everyone, and as long as nobody cries too loud about it, it works out.

And that brings us full-circle as to why this is worth bringing up, even if it is a day late. New Yorkers who don't like this should rightly raise hell about this, because they're not actually just fighting for themselves, but for the people in all the other states who have easy-way-out protect-the-people-at-the-expense-of-their-freedoms legislators who wouldn't mind doing exactly the same thing, especially with a state ready and waiting to be pointed to as a precedent.

Alexander Hamilton On Redress of Grievances

"If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify." - Alexander Hamilton

As usual, I'm getting these founders quotes from the Patriot Post. (Link goes to subscription for the free e-mails.)

Geoff Reviews - Nodame Cantabile (v.1-2), Train+Train (v.1), Kashimashi (v.1)

Several things on the list to review this time.

Title: Nodame Cantabile (volumes 1-2)
Media: Manga
Text: English (translated)
Story: Ninomiya Tomoko
Art: Ninomiya Tomoko
Publisher: Del Rey (originally Kodansha)

Overall: I think the author's note in the front of volume two says it best, really: "I had originally started out writing a comic about youth involved in classical music, but now it seems the characters are getting a little odd... I can't say where this is going... My apologies." While that just about covers it, what it fails to mention is the humor of the series, which is definitely up there as far as I'm concerned. (Caveat: Humor is definitely a subjective taste.) It won't sound like much from any description I've found, but it ends up as a readily suggestable manga anyway.

Nodame is a difficult series to synopsize (is that even a word?), because the character interactions really are the story. That said, the story is primarily that of Shinichi Chiaki, pianist and violinist, who wants to be a conductor. What he really wants is to learn from a European conductor named Viera, but between his fear of flying, and of the ocean, Chiaki is basically locked in place in Japan.


Title: Train+Train
Media: Manga
Text: English (translated)
Story: Kurata Hideyuki
Art: Takuma Tomomasa
Publisher: Go! Comi (originally Media Works, Inc.)

Overall: A planet dedicated to learning, circled by trains? Okay, I know, it sounds wacky, and probably none too bright. Still, it's a story by Kurata Hideyuki, the man who gave the world paper manipulation as a superpower, so even though it sounds odd, I didn't have much choice but to give it a shot. As with most first volumes, it suffers from the slump caused by having to introduce the characters. Unfortunately, it didn't pick up quite to the extent that I'd been hoping it would, but I'll hold out for another volume or two before making an ultimate decision.

It comes off as a kind of action/adventure/schoolyard drama, with the twist being that the schoolyard is actually the planet, and the dorm being the train.


Title: Kashimashi ~Girl Meets Girl~
Media: Manga
Text: English (translated)
Story: Akahori Satoru
Art: Katsura Yukimaru
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment (originally Media Works, Inc.)

Overall: This is one of those series that I've had the Japanese volumes sitting around for for quite a while now, and I was rather surprised when Seven Seas picked it up for a translated release. Frankly, they did a great job with the translation, right down to the font choices. Anyway, as to the story, I have to air my complaint up front: The alien whose spaceship crashes on Hazumu, and who then resurrects him as a female, stays. Again, comedy is a subjective kind of thing, but as character-driven as Kashimashi is, the deus ex machina really shouldn't have stayed for dinner. That aside, the story of Hazumu trying to fit in as a girl is enjoyable, and often humorous in its own right.

Now, as a fair word of warning, if you think from the subtitle of the series that you might have problems with it, you probably will. Otherwise, I'd suggest giving it a read, as a solid first volume, and preview of where the story is going.


The New Shock Therapy?

The obligatory link: Lawmaker: Shock ninth-graders with prison trips

I recall a time, back when I was still a youngster (certain people can now start laughing at me, since I'm busy reminiscing like an old man), that my Cub Scout... pack, was it? Anyway, that group went to visit a local police station. What shocked most of us, after we got done with the novelty of being in a police station, was the fact that it was brighter and cleaner than we had expected. Too many cartoons depicting incarceration in dank dungeons, I suppose... In any event, it was hardly a life-shaping "I better not be bad, or I'll end up here" kind of experience.

Having said that, this is the kind of meddling that society would be better off without. Far be it from me to turn up on the side of the public school system, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Mandatory contract termination for not abiding with this sounds as downright ridiculous as it is. "Send your ninth-graders to prison or we'll fire you!" Go on, tell me that doesn't boggle the mind. I dare you.

Not only is this proposed law something that goes entirely too far, but if you read down the article, "The Columbia school district already has a system that allows counselors to take a student or student groups on after-school prison tours with parental consent, Barnett added."

So, we have an over-the-top proposal, which may or may not do any good, attempting to replace a similar system already in place and functioning. Meddling, pure and simple. Give me a break...

Jefferson On Government

"If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of
the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must
become happy." - Thomas Jefferson


Remembering Reagan

Unfortunately for me, I was too young to realize or understand the import of President Reagan when he was in office. Still, every time I look back, I'm always coming across a quote of his that I find at least amusing, and often timely... Yes, even today. So, in remembrance, on his birthday, I thought I'd offer up a few of my favorites.

Quick credit where credit is due: To make sure I got the wording on the following quotes correct, I looked them up at www.quotationspage.com.

"How do you tell someone is a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell and anti-communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin."

"Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit."

"Thomas Jefferson once said, "We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works." And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying."

"Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."

And, having saved my two favorites for last:
"The government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.""


Short Shots

There are a few targets of opportunity that I couldn't pass up, so here we go.

The obligatory link #1: Bush sends congress $2.90T spending plan

I took one look at that and thought, "Geez, here we go..." On the second look, though, I think my brain came closer to shutting down as I tried to grasp $2.90T. Taking it another way, let's say that random sports figure A plays for 20 years and makes $20M a year. That's only $400M, after 20 years... we're still off by four zeroes going that route. No, I really can't conceive of that amount of money. Then I remember how much of it they're spending on stuff that they're not actually allowed to under the Constitution... Is that steam coming out of my ears?

The obligatory link #2: Super Bowl Ads of Cartoonish Violence, Perhaps Reflecting Toll of War

Brainster already hit this, but it made me twitch when I read it, so I'm going to hit it, too. Honestly, this guy is nearly as desperate to talk up his angle on the world as all the media people were to talk up how "there were two black coaches in the Super Bowl". It's this kind of idiocy that I just can't take. I mean, is there any actual thought involved in this? "A rock" sounds too much like Iraq? Give me a break, seriously... These are commercials, produced to run during a game, not during the breaks of a political debate.

All that said, I didn't see a single one of these commercials. Nor did I see any of the game. I know, I know, it's unnatural for a red-blooded American male not to partake of watching football. Oh well, I'm sure I'll survive having missed it. Besides, it's not like I'll be able to make it through the day without someone telling me who won... so, did I really miss anything?

The obligatory link #3: Experts say bundle up

Somehow, I get the feeling that mothers the world over knew this years ago... Still, it's apparently news to the folks who run the Lansing State Journal in Lansing, MI. Maybe global warming kept it warm up there for their whole lifetimes until now? The truth is, though, that they probably bundled up.

It's About To Get A Whole Lot Hotter

The obligatory link, right off the top: Global Warming: The Cold, Hard Facts?

Ever want to know why some people remain skeptical about global warming? Well, this story is a good indication. Honestly, the whole issue seems less like science, and more like the pre-fight verbal jabs one expects going into a boxing match... based on research and numbers instead of the more colorful "I'll kill you and eat your children!" type of banter, admittedly.

The only real trick here is, part of the fight is actually wrapped up in the preliminaries. Yes, Virginia, there are scientists who believe that, based on the research they've done, man has no notable impact on global warming.

Now, it's easy to try to chalk up the continuing attempts to blame the whole thing on man as "science as religion" as some do... but I think there's an easier explanation. If you were being paid to research something, and you knew the predisposition of the people giving you money, wouldn't that tend to cause you to bias your research in favor of that point of view?


Geoff Reviews - Spiral ~Suiri no Kizuna~ v.1

Why isn't this in with D.Gray-man and 100 Bullets? Because I hadn't finished the volume when I wrote that post. And the tildes in the title? That's how it's written on the author information and publisher information page.

Title: Spiral ~Suiri no Kizuna~ (volume 1)
Media: Manga (tankouban)
Text: Japanese
Story: Shirodaira Kyo
Art: Mizuno Eita
Publisher: Gangan Comics (a Square/Enix publication)

Overall: Honestly, I'd forgotten just how much I liked this series, both in manga and anime form. The subtitle of the series, "Suiri no Kizuna", translates as "The Bonds of Reasoning". (Inference is another translation of "suiri", though not used nearly as often in translating the subtitle. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, "suiri" also refers to the mystery or detective story genre.) This is easily my favorite meitantei (detective) story, though Death Note is a very solid second. In the end, though, Spiral has Hiyono-chan, who is quite possibly one of the most entertaining characters in manga. Spiral is right up there on the must-read list.

For those for whom a Japanese text is a mystery in and of itself, there is an anime version of Spiral released by FUNimation. Unfortunately, the translation isn't of the highest quality (or I'm just picky, having done my own translating for the manga), though serviceable, and the anime only covers the first six or so volumes of the manga. The anime does, however, have an incredibly appropriate soundtrack, which serves to highlight every important moment without getting in the way of the show. The other misfortune is that Tokyopop, the American company which has the rights to the Spiral manga, has been squatting on them, unmoving, since 2005.

The mystery begins two years before the story truly starts, in a short prologue in which Narumi Ayumu receives a cryptic phone call from his older brother, Narumi Kiyotaka: "I'm going to look into the mystery of the Blade Children. Please tell Madoka." Two years later, Ayumu wakes up from a dream fitting this description, late for his afternoon classes, only to end up fingered for a murder he did not commit.

Chapters one through three center on the mystery of how a girl could have been killed from a fall if no one was present to push her, and once the killer was revealed, who killed the killer, and why. The arc closes with the knowledge that the Blade Children mystery is somehow tied in to the first killing. Meanwhile, chapters four and five begin a locked room mystery quite as unfathomable as the one depicted in Sir A.C. Doyle's "The Sign of Four".

The characters make the series, with even the best of them having their flaws. Ayumu, for example, is an excellent deductive reasoner, but in his own mind, he is forever trapped in the shadow of his brother, Kiyotaka. Beside the brilliant Ayumu, Yuizaki Hiyono is the normal one, both noisy and nosy. Still, though she's neither a natural genius like Ayumu, or possessed of the mystery-shrouded brilliance of the Blade Children, Hiyono holds her own quite capably.

Volume two brings in the first of the important Blade Children, but we'll get to that later.

A few differences to note between volume one of the Spiral manga and the first few episodes of the Spiral anime:

The girl killed in the first volume of the manga actually survived in the anime, and was not done in by fellow students related somehow to the Blade Children, but instead by one of the Hunters (who the manga gets to later). The different outcome is explained by the presence of a delivery truck, which broke the girl's fall early, thus sparing her life.

The Hunter, after he was found out and confronted, was then shot (if I'm recalling correctly... it has been some time since I watched the anime) rather than felled by an arrow, and he didn't die either, but ended up in the hospital where he passed on the information about the plot being related to the Blade Children.

And finally, under the dust jacket, there is a four-panel extra of Ayumu trying to figure out what bothers him about the hand puppets that Hiyono had in chapter two.

Geoff Reviews - D.Gray-man v.1-3, 100 Bullets v.9

For a quick review of how I'm going to go about reviewing things, please see the first installment of "Geoff Reviews". I'm going to change up the format slightly, to get the information about what I'm reviewing right up front. There are a couple of them today, so I'll get to it.

Quickly, though, a physical description of manga. Both translated manga released here in the States, or original Japanese tankouban are roughly the size of a paperback book. I only make this distinction in that I may well review things out of Japanese monthly compilations, which take chapters (in order) of current series and publish them in a large volume. There are also weeklies of the same variety. Anyway, the compilations are more the size of a hefty hardback book, though still technically a paperback. Manga tend to weigh in around 200 pages, containing between six and ten chapters, of a single story, while the compilation weeklies and monthlies are closer to 700 pages.

I'd use the term graphic novel, but in the world according to me, that applies to larger-sized compilations of (primarily American) comicbook works. These are roughly the size of an 8.5"x11" one subject notebook. (Note, that isn't an exact dimension gained by either looking it up or physically measuring it, but an eyeballed generalization.)

Title: D.Gray-man (volumes 1-3)
Media: Manga
Text: English (translated from Japanese)
Story: Hoshino Katsura
Art: Hoshino Katsura
Publisher: Viz Media

Overall: A fun adventure. The comparisons to Full Metal Alchemist are probably going to be made over-much, but that's okay for now. Still a fun adventure, even given the shounen action/adventure formula. File it under the heading "If the first volume doesn't catch your interest, don't push yourself." Offsetting that, though, is the fact that it was enjoyable enough that I went through the first two volumes in one sitting, and the third one the next day.

To expound, D.Gray-man is the story of Allen Walker, a boy turned exorcist after realizing the mistake he made in accepting an offer to have his father brought back from the dead. Like I sad, the comparisons to Full Metal Alchemist are probably going to be made over-much, and that's the plot point most people are going to hang such arguments on. (For those who don't know, the short version from FMA: Edward and Alphonse Elric are brothers who set out to become alchemists and find the Philosopher's Stone after a failed alchemic experiment in which they attempted to bring their mother back to life.)

In any event, volume one chronicles Allen's journey to a conclave of exorcists, and the happenings along the way. Primarily, this is the "get to know Allen and the world in general" volume, including the series primary villain (for the moment), the Millennium Earl. It picks up in the second half, when he actually reaches his destination, and quite nearly gets himself killed.

The next two volumes consist mostly of Allen's first two missions for the order of exorcists he has joined. The first of these is a standard race-against-the-clock-type story, where Allen and his partner for the mission have to rush off to keep an important item from falling into enemy hands. Being shounen action, of course, this ends up entailing a large brawl where Allen has to learn more about his abilities as an exorcist to end up the victor. Still, Hoshino-sensei draws a good fight, though, like most such manga, a high-budget anime will make it look more impressive.

Volume three, after a goofy opening chapter centered on the rampage of a robotic construct of the science department rampaging through the exorcist headquarters, settles into a much more human story - a city where time is looped for everyone except the exorcists sent to investigate, and one woman who has the misfortune of knowing that October 9th is currently eternal. This volume also introduced the council of villains working with the Earl, at least one of whom is a human collaborator, rather than a being from the darkness.


Title: 100 Bullets - Strychnine Lives
Media: Graphic Novel
Text: English
Story: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Overall: The continuing story of a loose collection of organized crime families called "The Trust" and their struggle for existence after they lost control of and then tried to wipe out their elite peace-keeping force, the Minutemen. It's tough to say much about this volume, if only because it builds directly on the eight that came before it. Simply, if you've been reading the series to this point, you'll want to get this volume for exactly the same reasons you got the others - characters you can't look away from, and the progression of a story that you want to read the end of. This is definitely not a "for everybody" kind of recommendation, though. If you don't approve of, or can't at least get past, a high level of sex, drugs, violence, and murder in your entertainment choices, 100 Bullets isn't the kind of thing you want to be reading.

It's very easy to lure someone into reading 100 Bullets. Here's the sales pitch that worked on me, and worked for me on everyone I've considered recommending the series to: A man meets you somewhere. Maybe it's on a bus. Maybe you're having lunch in your favorite restaurant. Maybe you're just walking down the street. Wherever you are, this man stops you, and holds up a case. "In this case," he says, "is a gun, one hundred rounds of untraceable ammunition, and irrefutable proof that what I'm about to tell you is true. How you use them is up to you." You've been wronged somewhere, by someone. Maybe you don't even know who it is, or exactly what they did. That man knows, though, and the information in that case proves it. Now what do you do?

That's not all there is to the story, of course, but that's the start of it. Some of the stories, like the primary of volume nine, attach to the main story only in that they occur in the same city at the same time that some of the main characters happen to be there. What they do effectively is to continue building the feeling of the world Azzarello has created. which stands on its sudden violence.


Breaking News

Due to its import, this post will remain the top post until noon Central time on Monday. Well, news is one way of looking at it, anyway. The fact of the matter is, this has nothing to do with a world event, nor a local-interest story, nor even the football game that's going to be played tonight. (I've got a Japanese word for that, but we'll get to that later.)

While I haven't had the opportunity to meet him in person, I do have a good deal of respect for Third Wave Dave, a fellow listener to Constitutional Public Radio, and general good and knowledgeable guy. With that said, happy birthday, Dave. Here's hoping that the day goes your way.