Return Home

Sex, Ducks, and The Founding Feud

Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 05:31 PM

Jilted lovers and disrupted duck hunts provide a very odd look into the soul of the US Constitution.

What does a jilted lover’s revenge have to do with an international chemical weapons treaty? More than you’d think. From poison and duck hunts to our feuding fathers, we step into a very odd tug of war between local and federal law.

When Carol Anne Bond found out her husband had impregnated her best friend, she took revenge. Carol's particular flavor of revenge led to a US Supreme Court case that puts into question a part of the US treaty power. 

Producer Kelsey Padgett drags Jad and Robert into Carol's poisonous web, which starts them on a journey from the birth of the US Constitution, to a duck hunt in 1918, and back to the present day … it’s all about an ongoing argument that might actually be the very heart and soul of our system of government

UPDATE: The Supreme Court made a decision in the Carol Anne Bond case during the summer of 2014. If you've listened to the piece (or don't mind a spoiler) check out what our producer Kelsey Padgett had to say about the verdict.




John Bellinger, Joseph Ellis, Duncan Hollis and Nick Rosenkranz

Produced by:

Kelsey Padgett


More in:

Comments [34]

mary from Hartford, CT 06105

By the way, 2016 is the beginning of the Centennial Celebration of the International Migratory Bird Treaty, here is a link to the actual legislation (enacted in 2018):

The ducks deserve their own story.

Jan. 25 2016 11:27 PM

What is with the damn kid at the beginning of some of these podcasts? Annoying as hell. Otherwise, good segment.

Jan. 14 2016 01:53 PM
Catniss S. Vonnegut from Oviedo

I found the story very interesting and I was completely surprised when they said that they charged the woman with violating the international chemical weapons treaty. I think the charge is slightly extensive but at the same time the woman did try to commit murder. I think this case is weird but at the same time it was within the power of the federal government, and they were't overreaching. I really enjoyed this podcast because it involved adultery, attempted murder, history, and law.

Jan. 26 2015 07:28 PM
Noir LeSable from Washington, DC

Just a bit of an update to this story, the Supreme Court just ruled unanimously (with Thomas, Scalia, and Alito writing separate concurrences) that the CWC could not be applied to Bond v. United States. In the words of the Court Opinion:

"...Because our constitutional structure leaves local criminal activity primarily to the States, we have generally declined to read federal law as intruding on that responsibility, unless Congress has clearly indicated that the law should have such reach.The Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act contains no such clear indication, and we accordingly conclude that it does not cover the unremarkable local offense at issue here."

The question of the kinds of powers Congress has to enact domestic laws that apply international treaties the U.S. government has signed wasn't entirely answered, but for Carol Bond, it looks like she dodged a bullet.

Jun. 02 2014 12:44 PM
eli goitein

the Butte/geese/microbe story is one of the few HAPPY Eco-Science diasaster stories that ever have aired.(2-3times already) But still, where is the followup? past the research career of this nice couple, WHERE is Big Science, and the government/foundation money to accelerate development of this charming
serendipitous development?(the microbe from the geese's entrails)

May. 18 2014 08:13 PM

In response to what was said about having the federal government having total sovereignty over all affairs through the "treaty clause", I don't believe that it would be in the best interest of the average American citizen. Our country was founded on the fact that the British colonies felt that they couldn't be run by Great Britain who couldn't identify with the struggles of the colonists. Therefore, one could assume that the state governments would feel that the federal government would not be able to handle the affairs of domestic governments.

Apr. 01 2014 09:33 PM

Interesting decision to bleep ***k but not G**d***ed.

Feb. 25 2014 08:24 PM
Jonathan Zinke from Chico, CA

I absolutely love, love, love this show, I have been listening nearly from the beginning and I literally check the website at least once a week to see if there is a new podcast short or episode to listen to. That said, I am thoroughly disappointed with this particular short. As a history buff I was thrilled to see that Radiolab decided to dive into the subject, and almost all the way through I was on the edge of my seat as usual waiting for the next punch of the story, but I have to say that the obvious omission of NAFTA or the now-being-negotiated TPP from the story entirely, despite it being demandingly relevant to the conclusion was more than disappointing! Lest you forget that We the People are being stomped and trampled by so-called equal-citizen corporations, never mind that many of them are not even American to begin with or are transnational to boot. They are destroying the concepts of justice, human rights, sovereignty, and the biosphere (which all life, yes, including humans depends upon), and you forget to mention the relevance in your argument?? What gives?

Jan. 15 2014 05:22 AM

Yugoslavia does not exist for some time now!

Jan. 08 2014 05:32 PM
Alexa James from Los Angeles, CA

Interesting story, but it seems like more of a This American Life story than Radiolab. Where's the science element? Please don't lose that, or you won't be unique.

Jan. 08 2014 01:24 AM
Ella from London

I really enjoyed the show, but I have to say that as an example of being globally connected mentioning being in touch with a country that hasn't existed for 20 years makes me smile a bit :)

Jan. 06 2014 10:49 AM
Ella from London

I really enjoyed the show, but I have to say that as an example of being globally connected mentioning being in touch with a country that hasn't existed for 30 years makes me smile a bit :)

Jan. 06 2014 10:25 AM
Emily Eggleston from Wisconsin

I always enjoy listening, thanks for another great show. The fact checker in me is dying to tell you that Yugoslavia is no longer a country. It is not of consequence to the episode's content, just to geographical correctness.

Dec. 31 2013 02:33 PM
Leselle from Brooklyn, New York

Such a great episode. I have one bone to pick though. Jad! I love your show, I'm an avid listener and I'm a big fan of both you and Robert and the work that you do; the beginning of this episode, when referencing your "Speedy Beat" podcast, you said of Ludwig van Beethoven that he was the "seemingly stodgiest of stodgy classical composers, who...may have actually been a crazy man. A shocking rebellious outsider." Now, because both "Speedy Beat" and "Sex, Ducks and the Founding Feud" are two of my favorite podcasts and I have listened to both so many times, I feel I have to say something about this assessment of the Beeth.

I am a classically trained musician, I've been studying music for about a decade now and I can tell you, Beethoven was anything but stodgy; in fact, he was and has always been known as one of the musics greatest revolutionaries, one of its greatest innovators. His 3rd Symphony, alone, is credited with ushering in a new era of music. Imagine! a piece of your artwork, your own creation, being THE pivotal piece at the center of a paradigm shift--even being the cause of the shift in many ways. That puts you in the same class as the Dali's, the Picasso's, the Parker's, the Shakespeare's etc. Beethoven was at the vanguard of the vanguard of the romantic movement in music. His use of germ motifs, extended harmonies, syncopated rhythms etc was nothing short of inspired. His ability to create a vast, expansive universe of sound, reach to the limits of harmony while remaining anchored in a central tonality, these are all the accomplishments of one of the greatest innovators we've ever known. If he has a reputation for being stodgy it's probably a result of the overall reputation of stodginess shared by classical music in general. The general public thinks classical music is boring. This reputation of stodginess really is one of the greatest stigmas classical and instrumental music is saddled with. But, it isn't boring, it's amazing in ways big and small.

Anyway, Jad, don't perpetuate the myth of stodginess!!!! Please, as a favor to the classical music community :)

Keep doing the fantastic work that you do, guys. :) Thanks for everything.

Dec. 30 2013 11:34 AM
Smith from Washington D.C.

Very good episode.

As always, the discretion, that the staff practices to avoid biases is amazing. At first blush I thought this was going to be a propaganda piece on how great big government was, this was thankfully not the case.

NPRs regular programs have a tendency to skew one side, but of the years I've listened to Radiolab I have thankfully yet to hear a episode that was merely propaganda for one side.

Thanks Radiolab for this episode, that as always got me thinking and lead me to do additional research.

And yes I did donate. Thanks again for the good work guys.

Dec. 29 2013 03:12 PM
Andrea Muraksin from Indianapolis

Interesting example of the push and pull between federal vs. state and local governments written into our Constitution. I'm currently listening to the audio book of "American Nations," by Colin Woodard, which basically flips the whole idea that Americans ought to naturlly come together as a nation to solve problems on it's head.
Other resources: Episode 1 of the PBS miniseries "Constitution USA" with Peter Sagal
And (shameless plug) my own radio story about gun rights in which I learned that state and local law enforcement officials are not obligated to enforce federal laws other than the ones actually in the Constitution.

Dec. 28 2013 06:51 PM
Pete from Brooklyn

Agree with TPP and NAFTA comments...this episode was weirdly credulous/naive in believing the "our government would never do THAT!" line. What's up? It reminded me of the 60 minutes NSA piece. Who produced this one?

Dec. 28 2013 04:33 PM

Culture Shift has it right. How could you guys miss the connection with the TPP, one of the most momentous changes currently being proposed? And, remember NAFTA and the "side agreements" that were supposed to protect against NAFTA onslaughts against the environment and labor rights? Funny how our leaders never get around to that part.

Dec. 28 2013 10:33 AM
chamblee54 from chamblee ga

Here is a post inspired by this show.

Dec. 27 2013 09:04 PM
chamblee54 from chamblee ga

The story about the Constitutional convention has a problem. You emphacize the role played by Thomas Jefferson. You forget to mention that Mr. Jefferson was in France during the Convention, and did not participate.

Dec. 27 2013 06:13 PM
Andrew from New YOrk

Brian Eno's On land in the back ground at 45 seconds in.

Dec. 27 2013 03:52 PM
Wo Man from CO

Am I the only one who noticed that Jad described slavery in America as the "gorilla in the room"? LOL

Dec. 26 2013 10:13 PM
onny from Germany

Hey, if you ask for donations, please claim them! I would really like to support your show!

Dec. 26 2013 09:48 PM
maxiewawa from Sydney

Tried donating but site doesn't seem to accept PayPal. oops.

Dec. 24 2013 12:41 AM

I'm disappointed that Radiolab didn't ask Prof. Rosenkrantz about his paper showing that the key legal-historical premise Justice Holmes relied upon in the Missouri v. Holland case is provably false.

Dec. 22 2013 05:29 PM
Culture Shift from California

This episode is such a creative, informative history highlighting a vital and timely question about “Who’s in charge?” Sadly, you stopped the story just before the evolution of the so-called ‘free’ trade agreements, especially the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)and the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) . You imply that no government would write terms into treaties that undermine state and local sovereignty. Are you not aware that such agreements have been and are being written and nations are being sued for noncompliance?

Representatives of over 600 corporations have been advising a band of national trade negotiators for three years to draft the TPP. The trade envoys are headed by the US Trade Envoy, a bully for the corporations. Terms have been forced on less developed nations that have harmed local farmers, and all nations are losing power over food and drug safety, food sovereignty, and internet freedom. Even the AARP is against these trade deals. The current developments of your story have to be laid bare! A broad range of sovereign rights are threatened by terms disclosed in the leaked drafts of the TAFTA and the TPP. Nations have already been sued by the tobacco companies because they passed laws limiting the marketing of cigarettes to youth. If a signatory government makes a law or regulation that limits how cigarettes are marketed, it constitutes a violation of international law. Lawsuits are judged by a three person international panel appointed by business interests who supposedly best understand what constitutes a trade barrier.

Under these agreements “Buy Local”, ecofriendly marketing, and genetically engineered food labels, for example, will be deemed trade barriers. States and local governments who establish such product labels or marketing could be sued by rich corporations. The Obama administration is pressuring to push the TPP through the Senate in January.

By omission of this obvious and extremely important conclusion to your episode’s theme I see you as complicit with the mainstream media blackout on this issue. Our government is working persistently and secretly to give away the sovereignty of our nation, states and local governments to the powerful multinational corporations. Why didn’t you report that? Is there corporate pressure on your organization to participate in keeping Americans ignorant about unjust trade deals that destroy national sovereignty? Please help educate people to contact their Congressional representatives to make these trade negotiations transparent and democratic.

Dec. 22 2013 01:31 AM
john from Gran Colombia

but loved the show, as per usual :)

Dec. 21 2013 08:56 PM
john from Gran Colombia

playing wow with someone from Yugoslavia? srsly, Yugoslavia?

Dec. 21 2013 08:53 PM

Phillip said:

any treaty still has to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. So the states still have powers, through the senators they elect, to "check" that power.

This was more true when states elected senators through their legislatures, so that the states could protect their interests that way. With the switch to direct election of senators, however, this check has been weakened, further tilting the balance of power in favor of the federal government.

Dec. 21 2013 07:04 PM

Interestingly, as a result of the 1937 Labour Conventions Case, Canada took the opposite approach. In Canada the central government can't impose treaty obligations unilaterally in areas beyond its jurisdiction.

As the members of the Judicial Council of the Privy Council, definers of federalism who were themselves residents in a unitary state, wrote:

“It would be remarkable that while the Dominion could not initiate legislation, however desirable, which affected civil rights in the Provinces, yet its Government not responsible to the Provinces nor controlled by Provincial Parliaments need only agree with a foreign country to enact such legislation, and its Parliament would be forthwith clothed with authority to affect Provincial rights to the full extent of such agreement. Such a result would appear to undermine the constitutional safeguards of Provincial constitutional autonomy.”

These two cases effectively demonstrate the ways in which judicial rulings can contribute to the centralization or decentralization of a federation, sometimes in ways that may run contrary to what the framers of a particular constitution intended.

Dec. 21 2013 12:51 PM

This short is pure joy! :)
Mainly, and once more, it's the editing!! Excellent job!

Dec. 21 2013 05:11 AM
Terrance Stromgren from Minnesota

It has always been interesting how the Constitution can be interpreted in favor of states rights (Jefferson) vs Hamilton and federal rights, and how this debate continues today. The Constitution was formulated to partially satisfy both sides, in other words, a compromise that was necessary in order to be adopted by the states. State rights are necessary in order for a citizen to flee federal tyranny.

Dec. 20 2013 06:06 PM
Dave from WI

A treaty about schooling for kids isn't just theoretical. The UN treaty on children's rights would have vast implications in many areas.

Dec. 20 2013 02:57 PM
Phillip Gilfus from Greensboro, NC

I know there was a just a short time, but I think it's important to note that the treaty power isn't just the president waving a wand ... any treaty still has to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. So the states still have powers, through the senators they elect, to "check" that power.

That said -- loved the episode!

Dec. 20 2013 09:44 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Supported by