Friday, January 21, 2011

Not A Tapeworm

When Republicans draw districts, try not to be as ridiculous as Democrats:

An examination of our current Congressional, State House, and State Senate Legislative districts shows how they were drawn, and shows that mapmakers and Nashville politicos had more control over the process than the voters. Keeping Republican power at bay was the clear intent of our current configuration. As an example, the First and Second Congressional Districts are historically the two most Republican in the State, but both were rubbed against the Third District and counties divieded where (at the time) Democrats believed they had a better chance of winning than in the "Fighting First" or in Jimmy Duncan's Second-both of which have been Republican since Reconstruction. The most damage was wielded on State House districts, some of which were gerrymandered to guarantee a Democratic seat where there otherwise might not be one, as is the case both with the seats currently held by Representatives Harry Tindell and Johnny "Collection Plate" Shaw.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ministers and Atheists

Today I examine one of the most controversial parts of the Tennessee Constitution:

"Now Oatney," you say, "the Tennessee Constitution is contradicting itself. On the one hand it says that there will be no religious test for office, but it says that ministers and atheists can't hold office." To our modern ears, that does sound like a contradiction, but to the framers of both the Constitution of 1796 and the Constitution of 1870 (which is modeled heavily after 1796, with both including these provisions) it wouldn't be seen as a contradiction at all. In the minds of Tennessee's forefathers, you couldn't impose a religious test on someone who had no faith at all, so it wasn't a religious test to bar an atheist from holding office. If, they reasoned, someone didn't believe in God or, in their words "a future state of rewards and punishments," then that means that an individual doesn't believe that they will be held to account by anyone higher than the voters, so they might concievably take the attitude "so what if I lose the election, I will do as I please regardless of the consequences." Far worse, a person might take the attitude that says "oath...oh, that was just words."

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tennessee Framers: Big Government Sucks

The framers of the Tennessee Constitution didn't much care for big government:

When our State Constitution says that all power is "inherent in the people" what does it mean? That is a statement at which someone could make to a room full of people and they would be in agreement with it, but the same group of people might not grasp its meaning in this day and age. If power is "inherent in the people" where did they get the power from? We often like to talk about the importance of "human rights," but just who decided what was and was not a "human right?" While this writer has no problem with the phrase "human rights," rights are in fact not human at all. Inherent rights are granted from Almighty God through something we call free will or free moral agency. The framers of the Tennessee Constitution fully understood that truth, despite their many and varied religious views (God's name is mentioned twice in the document), and they understood that the purpose of government is to insure that our exercise of free will and the inherent rights that come with it do not interfere with our neighbor's right to also live as he or she might also please. It is for this reason that people have chosen to live in communities and, for the mutual safety and happiness of those communities, have delegated a small part of their inherent rights to form a government, the purpose for which is to protect and defend the God-given rights of the people and insure that the exercise of the rights of one does not trample upon the rights of all.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

They've Got the Power

Just in case the press needs to be reminded, Bill Haslam is not the boss of the Tennessee General Assembly:

Just in case you have a bit of trouble with 19th Century Legalese, that means that a Governor's veto of a legislative act can be over-ridden by simple majorities in both Houses of the General Assembly-50 votes in the House and 17 in the Tennessee Senate. While that by no means makes a Governor of Tennessee powerless-he or she is still commander-in-chief of the militia, can grant pardons and reprieves, and can appoint a cabinet (and thereby create cabinet departments), and can call extraordinary legislative sessions-it does mean that a Governor not only can't act without legislative approval, it means that he or she has no power at all other than that delegated by the Tennessee Constitution unless the General Assembly allows the Governor to have it. The Legislature has more real power than any Governor in Tennessee should they choose to exercise it, which the previous General Assembly did.

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