Monday, September 8, 2014

As if primary sources weren't problematic enough....

A fascinating story on History News Network deals with the difficulties of transcribing tape recordings. Read the story by clicking here.

If you read to the bottom, you'll see how differently three different scholars transcribed one section of the Nixon Oval Office tapes from the Watergate era. It's absolutely amazing how these transcriptions differ.

So, although the tapes of conversations seem as if they would be perfect primary sources, we can see here that their transcriptions must be read with the proverbial grain of salt.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Constitutional interpretation

My constitutional history students hear me say the word "interpretation" so many times that they probably think I mumble it in my sleep. (I don't think I do, but who knows?).

Anyway, the Supreme Court has given us yet another nebulous term to "interpret": in the Hobby Lobby decision from last term, the Court held that a for-profit "closely held corporation" did not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act's requirement that birth control be provided its employees if the company objected on religious grounds.

Right away, constitutional scholars and pundits recognized an interpretational problem: what exactly is a "closely held corporation"?

Now that question is being asked as the federal government tries to grapple with a definition. To read more, click here.