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You've heard of the famous plot to kill Hitler in 1944, code-named Valkyrie. But did you know that the last of the Valkyrie plotters only recently died? His name was Ewald von Kleist, and we'll be talking about him with one of his American relatives, Eric von Kleist. It turns out that the von Kleists, an old aristocratic family from what is now Poland, were anti-Nazi before anti-Nazi was cool. And their adventures make quite a cool story.
What can you do if an ex-lover posts explicit photographs of you online? Aren't there laws against such behavior?
There are, indeed, according to our two guests. But are such laws effective? And, even if they might be effective, do they violate the First Amendment?
Join us for a timely, and disturbing, discussion.
Part II of our fascinating interview with Simon Winchester. Go back and listen to Part I, then come back here and finish it up. Now! Go!
After we finish speaking with Simon, we'll discuss fashion with Charlie Condon, Associate Dean at the Appalachian School of Law -- he's such a snappy dresser. Actually, we'll discuss an important labor case pending in front of the Supreme Court with Charlie - but the case does revolve around clothing, the sort one wears in a steel mill. So, perhaps we should call it Labor Law Fashion. In any event, it's an important case and an interesting discussion.
Best-selling author Simon Winchester discusses his new book, "The Men Who United the States." The unity of our nation is not just a political or social phenomenon. It is also physical, made possible throughout our history by roads, canals, railroads, telegraph lines – up to and including the Internet. The story of how Simon Winchester came to write the book is as fascinating as the book itself.
Also, Stewart talks to Matt Reeves, the Chief Archeologist at Montpelier, James Madison’s historic home in Orange, Virginia.
Yep, it's that time of year again! Time for our annual Roundup of interesting and important cases now before the United States Supreme Court. We'll talk about abortion, free speech, the environment, unions, and even a murder conspiracy involving a transgendered man.
We'll also hear from our friends at Montpelier - the Riddler will make an appearance - as well as a listener who did NOT like our "I Love Boobies" episode, and who tells us precisely why.
The Harlem Shake! Last spring, a bunch of kids at Tennessee High in Bristol, Tennessee, got permission from their school to make a spoof video featuring the then-current dance craze, the Harlem Shake. Hilarity did not ensue. In fact, according to the students, local school officials pressured them to remove the video from YouTube. Wait, can they do that?
After we finish dancing, we'll talk about another topic near and dear to many people: traffic cameras. Now, now, calm down. Watch your blood pressure. This story has a happy ending.
We love boobies! We're betting that you do, too. But if you wear a bracelet expressing that sentiment in a public school, you might get kicked out. Even if all you're trying to do is promote breast cancer awareness. First Amendment, anyone?
After we've (ahem) gotten abreast of the free speech issues, we'll shift our attention to another of our favorite subjects, the Third Amendment. You remember that one -- it covers . . . it deals with . . . with . . . calling Quiz Lady Kelly Carmichael!
You don't have to be big and strong to defend the Constitution. You just have to be brave and determined. Just ask Mary Beth Tinker, who wore a black armband to school to protest the Vietnam War despite warnings that she would be punished. Then she took her case all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
Join us and we'll tell you what happened next.
Hmm - that doesn't sound very pleasant.
Actually, the Beard in question is a person, Charles Beard, and he's dead. Hmm - that doesn't sound very pleasant, either.
But it's fascinating. You see, Beard was a historian who wrote the most important book you've never heard of, "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States," published precisely a century ago, in 1913.
Beard's book has been causing academic fistfights since the day it was published, and that's why we're still talking about it a century later.
Please join historians Woody Holton and Gordon Wood for a rollicking discussion. But restrain yourself. It's just a book.
Never heard of Tule Lake? Consider yourself lucky. It's where the United States concentrated those Japanese-Americans who dared to protest their unlawful incarceration during World War II.
We speak with Barbara Takei, some of whose relatives were imprisoned at Tule Lake, and who has spent years researching it.
A sobering but fascinating episode.
Truancy is a serious problem: serious for the school, for the student, and for society. It's also presents several serious constitutional issues.
We speak with Professor Dean Rivkin of the University of Tennessee College of Law, and with his student, Anna Swift, who are working hard to make the truancy courts of Tennessee better for the students and for the United States Constitution.
Our best field trip ever! We visit the historic City Tavern.
When the delegates to the Constitutional Convention gathered in Philadelphia in May, 1787, there were no modern hotels. They stayed at boarding houses or private homes, and they ate (and drank) in taverns. The most prominent of those was the City Tavern, which has been authentically re-built so that that you can go and eat (and drink) the same way that the delegates did. It is easily the most enjoyable historical research we have ever done.
Join us! Huzzah!
Is he a whistle-blower, or a traitor?
We'll leave that judgment to history, or perhaps to the federal courts. In the meantime, we'll put Ed Snowden's Big Adventure in historical context, aided by Professor Joseph Fitsanakis, the Director of King University's Institute for Security and Intelligence Studies.
Join us for some cloak and dagger and a little dash of J. Edgar Hoover.
Dolley Madison started life in Virginia as a Payne - no pun intended.
Then her Quaker family moved to Philadelphia, where she married lawyer John Todd, and had two children.
Then, after the death of Todd and one of their children, Dolley faced financial hardship and was forced to sell bread on the streets of Philadelphia.
And all of this before she married James Madison - and you'll never believe who introduced them, and who served as James's wingman during the courtship.
We talk to Lynn Uzell, Scholar-in-Residence at Montpelier, who not only studies Dolley, but portrays her. We also take a tour of Todd House with Karie Diethorn, a historian with the National Park Service.
"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." James Madison, Federalist #47, January 30, 1788.
You said it, James! And this week we're talkin' Separation of Powers, or, as your 8th Grade teacher might have called it, "Checks and Balances." Either way, it's the first and most fundamental way that the Constitution protects our individual liberties. Ben Kleinerman from Michigan State University's James Madison College tells us all about it, and Cash Arehart, from Colonial Williamsburg, tells us about a new Electronic Field Trip that uses baseball to illustrate the concept (Cash is playing the role of Chief Justice John Marshall in the photograph).
We're also talking about how we might improve the Constitution, with our rabble-rousing buddy Chris Phillips and his new project at the National Constitution Center, "The Next 10 Amendments."
We finish our discussion of the Constitution's ratification with John Kaminski, the Director of the Center for the Study of the Constitution at the University of Wisconsin.
We also speak with ConSource Executive Director Julie Silverbrook about the role of women in ratification. They had more to say than you might guess.
Finally, we talk to a real, live Madison, who is - perhaps - the first descendant of James Madison's immediate family to live at Montpelier in over a century.
Please join us.
What happened after Constitution Day? We celebrate the end of the Constitutional Convention every September 17 (join us at Montpelier!) but that day was as much a beginning as an end. And the story of the following nine months makes for a fascinating tale.
Join us as we speak with John Kaminski, the Director of the Center for the Study of the Constitution at the University of Wisconsin, which is in the midst of a 75-year-long project: the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution.
Is the Supreme Court just too darn old, by cracky?
Eric Segall of Georgia State University thinks that some of the Court's members are, perhaps, a bit long in the tooth. And he blames the aging of the Court squarely upon the Constitution - upon Article III, to be precise, which provides that federal judges may serve during "good behavior" -- which effectively means for life.
This one's a discussion for the ages.
Well, if you're the Supreme Court of the United States, you made yourself the Boss. And you did it more than 200 years ago, in the most important constitutional case in American history: Marbury v. Madison.
Our discussion of this remarkable case, and the remarkable story behind it, is long overdue. We've been waiting for just the right storyteller, and now we've found him: George Kuney of the University of Tennessee's College of Law.
Please join George and our host, Stewart Harris, as they talk about this fascinating case and the fascinating personalities behind it - James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and, of course, John Marshall, the greatest Chief Justice the High Court has ever known. Indeed, since Marshall wrote the decision in Marbury, nothing's ever been the same.
Ever heard of George Mason? And, no, we don't mean the GMU basketball team. George Mason, the Founder. The Framer of our Constitution? The guy who pushed the entire founding generation into adopting what became our national Bill of Rights?
Didn't think so. But he was remarkably important. He also had a cool house. We decided to visit it. And you're invited to join us.
Don't touch my junk!
It's the catchphrase for how most of us feel as we approach TSA airport checkpoints. But is there a constitutional issue there? What about the Fourth Amendment? That "unreasonable searches and seizures" stuff?
We talk with two people about this - ahem - pressing issue: Kate Hanni, from FlyersRights.org, and Adam Engel, a criminal defense attorney and security expert.
Fasten your seatbelts - it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Ready for a constitutional laff riot???
Listen to our interview with Peter Sagal, host of the NPR news quiz show "Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!" and also, more recently, the host of the four-part PBS series "Constitution USA with Peter Sagal."
We turn the tables on NPR's Quizmaster and make him answer some tough questions about the Constitution. Our Quiz Lady, Kelly Carmichael of James Madison's Montpelier, offers not only her usual multiple-choice brain teasers, but also some fake news stories and even some limericks, just as Peter does on his show.
So join us for a fun-filled discussion of "Constitution USA," "Wait, Wait" and, of course, the Constitution itself. And find out how Peter Sagal does without his answer key.
We talk with writer Joan Gage about Elizabeth Keckley, a largely-forgotten woman who rose from slavery to become a seamstress and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, and who wrote a memoir of her remarkable life.
And attorney Joanie Burroughs tells us about Beate Gordon, who almost single-handedly wrote women's rights into the Japanese Constitution after World War II.
Memorial Day, 2013 is almost upon us. We here at YWC are profoundly grateful to our military servicemen and servicewomen, who promise to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic - and who often die fulfilling that solemn oath.
Here's a story that will bring tears to your eyes.
There are lots of bad guys out there. And lots of people who could be bad guys. And other guys . . . well, we're not so sure about them.
But can the President simply make a list, sit down in his big chair in the Oval Office, and decide which of these alleged bad guys to kill?
We speak with David Adler, the Director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, an expert on presidential power. David takes us on a fascinating journey, concentrating on the way executive power has dramatically increased during and after the Cold War, and especially after 9/11.
You'll want to listen to this one. In the meantime, don't make the President mad.
James Madison knew that only an educated citizenry could govern itself while preserving its essential freedoms. He spent much of his life building such a citizenry in America.
Today, the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at Montpelier carries on Madison's work in a variety of ways and through a variety of media -- including this radio show. Another way is through the Montpelier Seminars, residential programs in which teachers, judges, police officers and others learn about our constitutional history and values at the very place where Madison lived and worked. We'll talk to Professor David Marion, who recently led a Montpelier Seminar on the Bill of Rights.
It's a noble effort.
Well, we spent last week beating up on Thomas Jefferson, so this week . . . we're going to beat up on him some more. We finish our conversation with Paul Finkelman of Albany Law School, who discusses not only Jefferson's hypocrisy over the slavery issue, but his deep racism and his illicit relationship with his slave Sally Hemings.
After we finish our discussion with Paul, we have a first: an appeal of Constitutional Quiz! Actually, for you lawyers out there, it's more like a filing of an amicus brief by a third party, a professor at the University of Maine at Farmington, Jim Melcher. Jim thought that Eric, a contestant who failed to win a T-shirt some time ago, had actually given the correct answer to a quiz, while our preferred answer was actually wrong. After a full and fair hearing on the merits, the decision of the appellate panel was . . . .
Who? What? Are we talking about Thomas Jefferson? You bet.
There is an ongoing debate among historians (and other people, lots of other people) about old Tom's place in American history. Everyone admires the Declaration of Independence and "all men are created equal." But then there's that slavery thing. Ouch.
We'll talk with Paul Finkelman, author of "Slavery and the Founders," who is among Jefferson's harsher critics. Paul doesn't pull any punches. But don't worry, this is just one conversation among many that we've had, and will have again, about a remarkable, contradictory man who is arguably our most troubling Founder.
Who are those guys?
You've heard of them - the United States Attorneys. They sound pretty important. But who are they, and what do they do? Quite a lot, it turns out. And a lot of what they do involves the Constitution, starting out with their appointment by the President and their extensive and arduous confirmation process before the United States Senate.
We talk to two of these powerful government officials: Tim Heaphy, from the Western District of Virginia; and Bill Killian, from the Eastern District of Tennessee. Tim and Bill tell us about their duties, their backgrounds, and how they came to occupy these important positions. And, yes, they share lots of good war stories.
We continue our discussion with actor Fred Morsell, who has portrayed Frederick Douglass for 30 years.
In Part I we discussed Douglass's early life and his escape from slavery. In Part II we discuss his activities as an abolitionist, newspaper publisher, advocate for women's rights, author and public speaker.
Slavery was the original sin in our Constitution. This is the story of a man who helped us to recognize that sin and, ultimately, destroy it.
We'll talk to Fred Morsell, an actor who has portrayed Frederick Douglass for 30 years, and who knows so much about him that one episode of YWC is simply not enough. Part I covers Douglass's early life as a slave and his journey to freedom. Part II focuses upon Douglass the free man and abolitionist.
Please join us for a poignant, powerful American story.
D-u-u-u-de! Colorado and Washington State have legalized recreational marijuana! But don't get too excited - the feds still criminalize the wacky weed.
So what's a poor Washingtonian or Coloradan to do? We speak with Vanderbilt law professor Robert Mikos about this smokin' hot constitutional issue. We also get the latest from the trenches of the drug wars from Howard Wooldridge of Citizens Opposed to Prohibition (COPs).
Maybe we should just scrap the Constitution and start all over again.
Hey, before you get angry at us, consider the source: Thomas Jefferson suggested that we adopt a new constitution every 20 years or so. And Christopher Phillips, author of "Constitution Cafe," wants to take him up on it.
Protestors. Editorials. Talking heads. Think you've heard everything there is to say about abortion?
You haven't. The decision in Roe v. Wade, which constitutionalized the abortion debate, was handed down just over 40 years ago. So we decided to go back to the beginning. Actually, before the beginning. And we spoke with someone who was there: Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse, who reported on the Supreme Court for almost three decades, and who has co-authored a book with Reva B. Siegel called "Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling."
We learned a lot. So will you. Please join us for a fascinating discussion about the most controversial Supreme Court decision in the past, well, 40 years.
A hero of the Right, a nemesis of the Left, Judge Robert Bork recently passed away. A man of many accomplishments, he was most well-known for what he never was - a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
We'll talk to historian David Greenberg about Judge Bork's still-controversial confirmation hearings, and we'll also talk to United States Attorney Tim Heaphy, who, as a young staffer for then-Senator Joe Biden, personally witnessed history unfold.
Will we or won't we? Default, that is. On the national debt.
Scary thought, isn't it? But don't panic. Instead, listen in as we speak with Eric Posner of the University of Chicago, who helps us figure out some constitutional options for dealing with the seemingly never-ending impasse over the federal budget.
This episode is money.
Sure, we think it's a great movie - politics, war, a constitutional amendment - who could ask for more?
But is it historically accurate? Now that's another story.
Paul Finkelman of Albany Law School -- the same guy who told us all about the Emancipation Proclamation -- helps us sort it out.
We finish up our fascinating discussion with Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center. After finishing our tour of the major Supreme Court decisions affecting student speech - including the notorious "Bong Hits for Jesus" case - we finally get to Facebook and other social media, the new frontier of student speech cases.
Can your teacher punish you for what you post on Facebook? Even if you do it at home? On a weekend? During summer vacation?
We talk to Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center, who will take us through the major Supreme Court cases governing public school speech, cases which don't necessarily bode well for student rights.
But before we start our discussion with Frank Lomonte, we also speak briefly with Michael Perry about his February 4, 2013 presentation on human rights for the Buechner Institute of King College in Bristol, Virginia.
Can the government mandate that your employer's health care insurance provide you with "preventive care" -- care that includes contraceptives? What if your employer objects? What if your employer is a church? Or simply very religious? What about that Free Exercise of Religion thing?
Okay, now it's getting constitutional. So it's a good thing that Professor Doug McKechnie is with us to tell us all about the First Amendment issues.
Part II of the compelling tale of Fred Korematsu, who stood up to the mass incarceration of over 100,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry during the Second World War.
We won't give away the end of the story, but we will say that sometimes justice isn't done in a courtroom, but in the court of history.
Soldiers rounding up people in the streets. Innocent people. Law-abiding citizens. Children. Transporting them to remote camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.
No, we're not talking about Nazi Germany. Not the Soviet Union. Not North Korea, either.
We're talking about the United States of America. And we're not kidding.
What's your favorite holiday? Christmas? The Fourth of July? Arbor Day?
Those are all fine choices, but here at Your Weekly Constitutional we have our own particular favorite: September 17 - CONSTITUTION DAY!
Join us for good times with James and Dolley Madison on a sunny day filled with warm breezes, cool drinks and good conversation -- a party in September at Montpelier.
Gay Rights, Free Speech, Pro Football -- who could ask for anything more?
We'll talk to Chris Kluwe, punter for the Minnesota Vikings, who wrote an open letter about these strangely-related subjects, a letter laced with inventive and hilarious profanity. It was published on the Huffington Post and became an internet sensation.
Chris, who also dominates online video games and plays bass with the band Tripping Icarus, is not your average NFL player and this is not your average episode. Indeed, some of the language discussed may not be appropriate for younger listeners. But join us anyway. You've heard these words before. Well, most of them.
Awhile back, we did an episode on Compulsory Vaccination that focused upon whether you have a constitutional right to refuse state-mandated innoculations.
The response was overwhelming. Many of you wanted more discussion of the underlying medical issues - not just whether we have a "liberty interest" in refusing vaccinations, but whether doing so is a good idea. So here it is: "Compulsory Vaccination II: The Rest of the Story."
We join Meg Kennedy on a worldwide manhunt - well, actually, it's more like a furniture hunt.
Meg is the Acting Director of Museum Programs at James Madison's Montpelier, which means that she's in charge of finding original pieces of furnture, decorations and documents to bring back to the Madison home, no matter where in the world the search may take her.
Meg is a historical Nancy Drew - and, yes, she even talks about an old clock.
We'll speak with Catherine Allgor about her new book, "The Queen of America," which discusses not only Dolley Madison, but also Mary Cutts, the relatively unknown woman who gave us almost everything we know about Dolley.
Mary Cutts is an example of the "vanishing women" of American history, women whose many and significant contributions have been obscured not only by the passage of time, but by the times in which they lived.
Join us for an enlightening interview with Professor Allgor, and for excerpts from her November, 2012 presentation at Montpelier.
No, not that President. Another president, and one who knows a great deal about the subject: Jonathan R. Alger, the new President of James Madison University. In his old job as Assistant General Counsel at the University of Michigan, President Alger oversaw two of the most important affirmative action cases in U.S. history. Those two cases - Grutter and Gratz - emphasized the importance of diversity in higher education. And those two cases might get reversed this term.
Is educational diversity a constitutional basis for affirmative action programs in college and university admissions? Join us for the inside story of the Grutter and Gratz cases, and what might happen to them when the the Supreme Court decides Fisher v. the University of Texas.
The State of Georgia has miles and miles of beautiful highways, and the Ku Klux Klan wants to adopt one. But the Governor doesn't think that's such a good idea.
Now the Klan has a lawyer - two lawyers, actually - from the Georgia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. And we talked to both of them. We also talked to the head of the Georgia branch of the ACLU and asked her why she would agree to represent such clients.
It doesn't get any better than this.
Ever think that the Founders were a bunch of demigods with chiseled features, carved in marble and mounted on pedestals, who spent their lives striking poses and making memorable speeches? Yeah, we did too. Then we grew up.
And when we started really studying our Founders, we learned something: while many of them were extraordinary people, they were also, well, people. And that means that they had flaws. Some more than others.
This is the story of one particular Founder who had more than his share of - ahem - moral flexibility, a fellow who did some extraordinary things, but who also had a few of what our younger listeners might call Epic Fails. His name was William Blount, and we call him our Founding Scoundrel.
Ever feel like somebody's watching you? Well maybe someone is.
We talk to a federal magistrate who is very concerned about the remarkable number of secret surveillance orders being issued by the courts, orders that enable the government to access your text messages, emails, and even to track your mobile phone's location - all without your knowledge.
Don't believe us? Ask David Petraeus. Or simply listen to this episode - but you may want to use somebody else's computer.
We talk about a variety of controversial constitutional issues -- from the new health care mandate to gun control -- with the 2012 candidates for Virginia's Ninth Congressional District, incumbent Morgan Griffith, a Republican, and challenger Anthony Flaccavento, a Democrat.
The two candidates have constitutional perspectives that are very respresentative of their respective parties. In fact, we're willing to bet that, wherever you live, you have - or will one day - face a similar choice of constitutional philosophies in your district's congressional race.
Of course, the 2012 race is over now, and the winner of the Fightin' Ninth was . . . .
The Founders thought this! The Framers said that!
You've heard such statements. In fact, it sometimes seems that everyone who has a strong opinion about the Constitution tries to enlist the Framers as allies. But how many modern pundits have actually done their homework? Are their claims about the Framers accurate?
Well, here's one fellow who has done the research: Michael Meyerson of the University of Baltimore's School of Law. Mike has gone back and actually read what several of the most prominent Framers said, wrote and did on the subject of church-state relations - people like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and, of course, James Madison. And Mike tells us all about it in a lively, entertaining way. We had a great time speaking with him, and we guarantee that you'll enjoy him as much as we did.
And once you've listened, you can tell all of your friends what the most important Framers really thought about church-state relations.
Git along there, little dogies -- it's our annual Roundup of interesting and important cases on the docket of the United States Supreme Court.
Grab your ropes, saddle up and join Professors Judie Barger, Pat Baker, Charlie Condon, Kendall Issac, Buzz Belleville and Doug McKechnie as they pick six fascinating cases to discuss with your host, Stewart Harris. It's a good 'un.
Whatever happened to the ERA? You remember - the Equal Rights Amendment. Angry women. Angry men. Disco. Hey, it was the '70's.
We'll talk to Wanda Sobieski, the same Knoxville attorney who did such a great job telling us about women's suffrage and the 19th Amendment awhile back. Wanda gives us the big picture, as well as a fascinating tale of personal involvement in one of the great constitutional questions of our time.
That's what Alexander Hamilton once called the Articles of Confederation - imbecilic. And that's why he wanted to throw out the Articles in their entirety and start fresh with what ultimately became our current Constitution. Sandy Levinson, a distinguished law professor from the University of Texas, doesn't want to throw out our whole Constitution, but he thinks that some parts of it are definitely worth changing. And we're not talking little stuff here - he goes right after the basics, even revisiting some of the very issues that were hotly debated during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Hey, that's why we have an amendment process, right?
Who ya gonna vote for in November? Mitt? Barack?
That's a political question. Here's a constitutional question: will your vote matter? Or is your state so reliably Red or Blue that your vote will be buried beneath an avalanche of the other party's votes?
We'll talk about the constitutional institution at the heart of such questions: the Electoral College. We'll hear from someone who supports the College as a protection of state sovereignty. And we'll hear from someone who doesn't like the College at all, and who has a plan for effectively abolishing it -- without amending the Constitution.
[Please note that there is about 24 seconds of blank audio before this episode begins. Sorry about that. We could have fixed it, but we didn't want to wait any longer before posting this podcast, which has already been delayed by technical issues at WETS. Even radio stations occasionally have computer problems.]
If you're a parent, the government of your state probably requires you to vaccinate your children for a variety of illnesses before you can enroll them in school. Can the government do that? Or should parents have a constitutional right to refuse to have their children vaccinated?
This has been an issue for at least a century, when the United States waged its ultimately successful war on smallpox. In some cases, those who resisted vaccination against that dread disease were handcuffed and forced to submit at gunpoint.
We'll talk to Professor Michael Willrich of Brandeis University, who has written a fascinating book about this little-known story: Pox: An American History.
We'll also talk to Mark Blaxill, a concerned parent who questions modern compulsory vaccination. Mark has also written a book, The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine and a Manmade Epidemic. Should parents like him have a right to refuse to have their children vaccinated? Or should the state have the power to compel them?
We talk a lot about current constitutional issues on this show. We also talk a lot about history. And sometimes, we pause, take a deep breath, and talk about Big Ideas - note the capital letters.
That's what a group of scholars did recently at Montpelier's Center for the Constitution, and our host, Stewart Harris, was among them. He shares a conversation he had with another conference participant, Brad Rourke, about two big issues in constitutional theory: political participation and political ethics. We also hear from Doug Smith, the Executive Director of the Center for the Constitution, about why such conferences are important.
It will blow your mind.
Rumor has it that Chief Justice John Roberts switched his vote at the last minute on the Affordable Care Act decision. And some conservatives are none too happy about it. They're calling him all kinds of unpleasant names.
But did the Chief Justice actually switch his vote? And if so, so what?
We'll talk to former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Penny White and to Professor George Kuney, two distinguished professors at the University of Tennessee College of Law. They'll tell us all about how appellate courts work, and what (might have) happened just before the decision on "Obamacare" was handed down.
What does wine have to do with the United States Constitution? Well, as it turns out, it has much more to do with our constitutional history than (hic!) you'd think.
We have a fascinating discussion with Maja Djorčev, a graduate student studying wine geography, who tells us all about this obscure, flavorful, potent brown wine, which was once all but extinct.
You! Hold it right there! Okay, up against the wall! Spread 'em!
Has this ever happened to you? To someone you know? We'll talk to former ACLU President Ira Glasser about New York City's aggressive and controversial policy of "Stop and Frisk." It's a policy being followed in other American cities, as well.
Is the policy working? What are the constitutional standards for a Stop and Frisk? Are the police meeting them?
Modern warfare - again. But this time it's all about missiles and explosions and drones. Or, as the government calls them, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
Who has the constitutional power to use these remarkable weapons? In places where there is no declared war? Against American citizens?
We talk to Scott Shane, a national security reporter for the New York Times.
No guns. No bombs. No explosions. Just a bunch of techno-nerds in a secret room, tapping away on their keyboards.
They can do a lot of damage. But can they commit acts of war? And just who has the constitutional power to authorize them to do so?
We talk to Professor Joseph S. Nye, former Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Was James Madison a tree-hugger?
Although there are no historical photos showing him in a tie-died shirt or wearing Birkenstocks, he was quite a conservationist, as were many of the Founders.
We speak with Sandy Mudrinich, who cares for the grounds of Madison's living legacy, Montpelier.
We all know about the duel. It didn't turn out so well for Alexander Hamilton. But it didn't turn out very well for Aaron Burr, either.
What happened to Burr after the Interview at Weehawken? Quite a lot, it seems. Grandiose schemes of conquest. Conspiracy. And the most famous trial for treason in all of American History.
Listen in and find out how it all ended up.
The Ten Commandments. It seems that we've been arguing about them ever since Moses brought them down from the mountain. Lately, we've been arguing about whether posting them in public schools, public parks and other public spaces violates the First Amendment. It's one of those constitutional issues that just keeps coming back. Dare we call it - eternal?
Listen in and decide for yourself.
We all know that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves - or did he?
And if he did, well then, how did he do it? Where, precisely, would a president find the constitutional power to free slaves, which were then considered "property?" Doesn't the Fifth Amendment require compensation when the government takes our "property?"
We're confused. Fortunately, Paul Finkelman clears it all up for us. He's a great storyteller, and it's a fascinating tale. Tune in! Or, rather, download!
Habeas Corpus - "the ancient writ" -- enshrined in the Magna Carta and the United States Constitution. Literally translated, it is a command from a judge to a jailer stating, "Produce the body." The body in question is a prisoner, and the judge who issues such a writ is commanding the government to bring that prisoner into court and to justify his imprisonment.
Habeas Corpus is one of the greatest tools a free society has to resist government tyranny, and also the avenue of last resort for those charged with capital crimes. In this episode, we look at one such case, House v. Bell, from Tennessee, in which a man sat on death row for more than 20 years while lawyers used habeas proceedings to try to prove his innocence.
Rape and murder, guilt and innocence, conviction and . . . exoneration? Join us and find out.
It's been more than 150 years, and people are still debating the question.
We'll talk to Donnie Kennedy, co-author of "The South was Right!" who thinks that much more than slavery was at issue.
We'll also talk to James Loewen, who quotes the explanations provided by seceding states themselves in his book, "The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The 'Great Truth' About the 'Lost Cause.'"
So saddle up and join us.
Most of us pray. Many of us pray every day - at home, at work, at church, and in school. So what's the big deal about school prayer? Why have the courts put constitutional restrictions on it, at least in public schools?
We'll talk to former Congressman Bill Dannemeyer, who wants to see prayer back in public schools, and with Annie Laurie Gaylor, the Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who doesn't.
The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and of the press. But a free press is of limited value without responsible and courageous journalists. Fortunately, such journalists exist, even in tiny little towns tucked away in the mountains. Join us for the story of two such journalists, Jonathan and Susan Austin of the Yancey County News.
This one's all about a farm. Roscoe Filburn's farm. And about what happened to Roscoe and to the Commerce Clause when Roscoe decided to grow just a little too much wheat.
Here's a hint: the resulting case, Wickard v. Filburn, may just be the linchpin upon which the whole federal health care debate ends up turning.
Eugenics in America. Selective human breeding. Forced sterilization. You heard that right - in America.
We'll speak with Edwin Black, author of "War Against the Weak," and with Governor Beverly Perdue of North Carolina, who is trying to help the victims of the now-defunct eugenics program in her state.
A fascinating, disturbing episode.
Is the Federal Reserve constitutional?
What is the Fed, anyway? And does it have too much power? Who are those guys?
We'll talk to United States Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of the Fed's leading critics. We'll also talk to economist Allan Meltzer, author of "A History of the Federal Reserve."
This episode is money.
California says it's legal. The Feds say it's not.
What's a poor Californian to do?
We talk to Steve DeAngelo, star of the Discovery Channel's reality program, Weed Wars, and to Tamara Todd, an attorney who specializes in drug law and the constitutional questions that arise when the states and the federal government follow different drug policies.
The Supremes get to decide the fate of the new federal health care statute, but the rest of us can talk about it, too. We've assembled several knowledgeable and articulate people, including a doctor, other health care professionals, a couple of law professors, and even the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli. There are lots of insights and lots of opinions, all of which makes for a learned and lively discussion.
We've got a new partner, and a new format!
The new partner is the Home of the Constitution, James Madison's Montpelier, where the Father of the Constitution spent most of his life, and where he designed many of the basic principles of our Constitution.
The new format includes new features, such as the Madison Minute, where each week we'll explore some aspect of James Madison's life, family or thought. It also includes This Week at Montpelier, where we'll discuss the many fascinating things happening all the time at the Home of the Constitution, from archaeology to wine tasting. And you'll notice increased technical quality, especially on the Constitutional Quiz with our Quiz Lady, Kelly Carmichael.
But the basic focus of the show hasn't changed. We'll still take a major constitutional topic each week and talk with knowledgeable people about it. If it's controversial, we'll try to get all sides.
So think of it as Your Weekly Constitutional, Version 2.0. Take a listen and let us know what you think.
Ever read the Constitution straight through? You really should. It doesn't take that long, and you'll encounter some interesting and surprising things along the way. Did you know, for example, that there is a clause devoted to, of all things, Weights and Measures? And another devoted to Marques of Reprisal? We talk to Jay Wexler, who tells us all about it.
The Plots Against the President.
We'll talk to award-winning author Sally Denton about the left-wing assassination attempt on Franklin Roosevelt just before he took office, and the right-wing conspiracy to replace him with a fascist dictator.
Yup, they really happened.
Join us for an in-depth tour of James Madison's mansion and estate. We'll scrape away the paint and look behind the walls. We'll even dig up the grounds and rummage around in the foundations. There's a lot of constitutional history here, from Madison's time through the Civil War, the Gilded Age and even including Jim Crow. It's a fascinating journey.
We promised that we'd go back, and now we have. And you can come with us. We'll hear more about the detective work involved in the restoration of James Madison's mansion. We'll also find out how archaeologists are unearthing (literally) hundreds of years of constitutional history at Montpelier, from the Founding Era to Jim Crow. C'mon - let's get diggin'.
Former Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi is only the latest in a long line of chief executives to issue a heapin' helpin' of pardons just before leaving office -- Richard Nixon, anyone? Anyone? -- How could he do such a thing? How have U.S. Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, exercised the remarkable Pardon Power?
The riveting story of Paul Jennings, who began life as one of James Madison's slaves, who accompanied Madison to Washington, DC, and who eventually purchased his own freedom from Dolley Madison. We'll speak with Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, who chronicles Jennings's amazing story in her new book, "A Slave in the White House."
A brutal rape and murder. A twisted, brilliant defendant. An execution. But did we execute the wrong man? Join us as we talk to Tom Scott, one of the prosecutors in this remarkable case, which garnered international attention and became a focal point in the ongoing debate over the death penalty. Perhaps strangest of all: it all started right here, in tiny, remote and beautiful Grundy, Virginia.
Join us for a tour of the nation's only museum dedicated entirely to the United States Constitution. We'll get up close & personal with the Framers. We'll also go outside into Philadelphia's Historic District for the Constitutional Walking Tour. So put on your comfy shoes and get set.
Doctor, doctor, gimme the news, I got a bad case of . . . Health Care reform. We'll talk to two learned gentlemen with very different opinions about the constitutionality of what is commonly referred to as either the Affordable Health Care Act or Obamacare. Listen in and take your pick.
Battleground! Where? Right here in Northeast Tennessee. What's the fighting about? The First Amendment and the free exercise of religion.
We'll talk to Stephen Bates, who wrote a book about the great textbook battle of the 1980's in Hawkins County, Tennessee - a constitutional slugfest between Concerned Women for America and People for the American Way.
But before it became a national sensation, this particular battle began with a local "homebody homemaker" named Vicki Frost and her concerns about witchcraft and "secular humanism" in the public schools.
It's that magical time of year! Carolers, presents, and . . . Bill of Rights Day! It's December 15 - remember? Sure you do. In honor of the 220th Anniversary of the Bill of Rights, we'll be celebrating this most-overlooked of holidays with a special treat - a tribute to radio pioneer Norman Corwin, who produced a remarkable broadcast in 1941 - the 150th Anniversary of the Bill of Rights - called "We Hold These Truths." Our show will feature extensive excerpts from the 1941 broadcast, plus explanation and commentary from our host, Stewart Harris. So tune in your crystal sets or join us online at wets.org.
Is the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional? Michael Newdow thinks so. And he's gotten at least one federal court to agree with him. We'll talk to Dr. Newdow, and to Gregory Katsas, a former Justice Department lawyer who defended the Pledge against one of Dr. Newdow's lawsuits.
Who is this Andrew Johnson? Hint: he has something in common with another guy you might more easily recognize named William Jefferson Clinton. In fact, these two guys have a lot in common. You see, both started out poor in the rural South, both were reared primarily by their mothers, and both ended up being . . . . well, let's not spoil it.
The second part of our visit to the National Archives, where we'll talk about the actual, original, handwritten United States Constitution. We'll also speak with other visitors as they experience firsthand the Charters of Freedom, which include not only the Constitution, but also the Bill of Rights, and, of course, the Declaration of Independence. And we'll finish our fascinating conversation with conservator Kitty Nicholson.
Mr. Harris goes to Washington! Join us as we visit the original Constitution of the United States in its high-tech encasement in the Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, DC. We'll have a fascinating discussion with Catherine "Kitty" Nicholson, one of the conservators who literally preserve and protect that great document every day. We'll also visit the Declaration of Independence and the original proposed Bill of Rights - all 12 of them.
Kitty has lots of wonderful stories, dating back to the very creation of the Constitution. Did you know, for example, that it's not printed on paper, but on . . . . Tune in to find out.
It's time for our first annual Roundup! A Supreme Court Roundup, that is. I'll be talking to several of my learned and articulate colleagues at the Appalachian School of Law about some of the more interesting cases coming before the United States Supreme Court this term. So grab your hat, saddle up your horse and get ready for some serious constitutional ropin' and ridin'. Yeeeee-haaa!
Was it constitutional for President Obama to kill Osama bin Laden? How about the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen living in Yemen? The answers are more complex than you might think. We talk to John Bellinger, former Legal Advisor to both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and to the National Security Council. We also speak with Professor Robert Turner of the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia.
Are we talking Nazis and bonfires? Or is it something more nuanced? Is every attempt to remove a book from a library a "ban?" We'll talk to a lawyer for the American Library Association and to one of the ALA's critics. We'll also talk to a high school English teacher and a public librarian. Listen up - it's a hot one.
In our second episode on Prohibition, we conclude the bloody tale of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. By 1929, gang violence had become so brazen than many people started openly calling for repeal of the 18th Amendment.
The first in a series of episodes on Prohibition, which tie in with the new Ken Burns PBS documentary. Former Cook County Police Chief Art Bilek tells the gripping story of the Chicago mob and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the single most notorious act of gang violence during Prohibition. Such violence and the inability of corrupt politicians to prevent it eventually led to the repeal of the 18th Amendment.
We'll talk to Kevin Barksdale, who wrote a great book about the mostly-forgotten attempt to create a 14th state in the 1780's, before we had a real Constitution. We'll also visit the Tipton-Haynes Historic Site, where the fight over the State of Franklin erupted into battle.
Somebody had to. We talk to Richard Beeman, author of the best-selling book "Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution." Hey, if he's good enough for "The Daily Show," he's good enough for us: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-april-23-2009/richard-beeman
Is secession constitutional? Wait -- wasn't that question settled in 1865? Perhaps not: Recent statements by some states' rights advocates make it strangely timely today. We'll hear from two attorneys: Kent Masterson Brown and Robert Black. Also joining us will be ASL students LaTri-c-ea McClendon and Chris Menerick.