A brief legal (and mildly personal) analysis of the NDAA

By Olivia LaRosa

March 3, 2012

I am inspired to shared this article with you from the  Tenth Amendment Center. I like their style, but their politics indicate that they haven’t quite moved into the 20th century, let alone the 21st. Only silly people would think that you could manage a nation in 2012 the same way you might in 1800. I can get messages to people in Pakistan and India in moments. When my mother and father were born, most people had access to political news only through the newspapers and mailed publications.

In 1931, some Americans had daily mail delivery, indoor plumbing, telephone service, and an icebox. My grandparents had an icebox. South Dakota gets pretty darn cold in the winter (think Fargo) and pretty darn hot in the summer. I last drove through South Dakota in 2005. It was an insufferably humid 105 degs. in June at the Pine Ridge Reservation.

We stopped at many spots at Pine Ridge and visited with the men selling trinkets to Native American Tourists. (Thank you, men, and Native American Tourists.) They smiled and asked us to buy their wares. We bought their wares for the opportunity to show our respect for them as human beings. Pine Ridge County is the poorest county in the United States.

We visited the Pine Ridge Museum…awe-inspiring. Not, however, in the way we normally regard the contents of a big-city museum. I am always agog at the infinite mysteries created by the human brain.

In this case, The Pine Ridge Museum is a memorial to the last few survivors of the people who remain after 95% of them were destroyed after the occupation of the Americas by dictators, corporations, and mercantile enterprises. Religion was merely the tool these greedy entities found most effective to render indigenous folk into proletarian sausage.

How did they survive? I come from those people, but I still do not know how they make it. My mother was born in the midst of Oglala Sioux country in 1931; Lily, South Dakota. Maybe that’s why I made it this far. Oh wow I am so off-topic. Back to business.

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

OK, that sounds pretty good to me so far! Regrettably, at the Tenth Amendment Center, it is difficult to locate the text of the actual Amendment. Instead, the reader is treated to a line from the 1931 Supreme Court case, United States v. Sprague.

The Tenth Amendment was intended to confirm the understanding of the people at the time the Constitution was adopted, that powers not granted to the United States were reserved to the States or to the people. It added nothing to the instrument as originally ratified. – United States v. Sprague, 282 U.S. 716, 733 (1931).

In normal terms, this line means absolutely nothing. So of course, a website must be built dedicated to an analysis of “nothing” in U.S. v. Sprague. Some of us are lawyers and some of us are “the loony etymologist fringe.” 

In lawyer terms, the dudes on the Supreme Court reversed the passage of the 10th Amendment in 1931.


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