The Magazines Clause:

If you're ever talking about press and the law, just throw into the conversation, "Oh, that's covered by the Magazines Clause of the Constitution." Then watch them squirm until you admit that this Clause doesn't quite mean what you at first suggested it did. It's also a nifty example to illustrate noscitur a sociis.

Thanks to Stanford lawprof Pam Karlan for the pointer.

James Ellis (mail):
I'm just glad it isn't known as the "Erection Clause."
3.21.2006 4:35pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
Damnit, you beat me to the erection joke.
3.21.2006 5:03pm
This clause is always cited as the reason the District of Columbia has no vote in Congress--DC doesn't have a vote because the Constitution says that Congress's "exclusive jurisdiction" means it can't. Yet the clause says the same thing about military bases elsewhere in the country, and residents of military bases outside DC have full voting rights in state and congressional elections. Can anyone explain this?
3.21.2006 5:22pm
KeithK (mail):
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States...
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union...

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
Seems clear to me that a district that is not part of any state is not eligible to representation in Congress. Folks on military bases are not voting for a Military Base Senator, they're voting as citizens of their home state.
3.21.2006 5:29pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
noscitur a sociis

I'm also put in mind of a passage in one of Robertson Davies's novels in which a character refers to a lawyer's case as "argumentum ad excrementum taurorem". I think that the novel is either The Rebel Angels or The Lyre of Orpheus, both of which are, IMHO, pretty good.
3.21.2006 6:50pm
Peter Wimsey:
It's been a while, but shouldn't that be "argumentum ad excrementum tauri"? Of course, that would be, I think, argument against BS. Maybe "argumentum ex excremento tauri" is grammatically better?
3.21.2006 9:55pm
Interesting. Read strictly, wouldn't the 'exclusivity' of Congress' legislative authority in the named places rule out review by the courts?
3.22.2006 6:39am
Matt L. (mail):
I suspect Davies used "taurorum." "Tauri" would be grammatical though a bit odd. "Taurorem" is not a word. And the "ad" here means "to" or even "based on" (see "argumentum ad ignorantiam," "ad verecundiam," etc.), not "against."
3.22.2006 11:01am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
other needful Buildings;

That covers a multitude of sins...

But are national forests and national parks Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; and how much federal land did the state legislatures consent to?

This is a favorite clause that Right Wing Nuts love because it suggests that other federal property is unconstitutional.

I should do a post on the topic of constitutional clauses beloved of Right Wing Nuts.

The Gold and Silver clause...
3.22.2006 12:19pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
how much federal land did the state legislatures consent to?

Where on earth in the constitution does it say that the federal government can't own land or that the states have any say in how much land the federal government can own? The federal government owns land it bought, acquired by treaty or stole from Native Americans, or won by conquest from the Spanish, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, English, Mexicans or various other parties. If anyone has a claim to Federal lands, it is those parties, not any states or recent immigrants (i.e., those of us who arrived in the last 500 years or so).
3.22.2006 1:41pm