March 20, 2006

Bush's Amended Bill of Rights

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It's about time someone tabulated this--you hear about Bush violating the Bill of Rights, it's another thing to see the actual damage laid out. So here it is, the Bill of Rights, George W. Bush-style:

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion (Bush and the GOP have blurred the lines between church and state, giving clear endorsement to Christianity, in many different ways), or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (coming soon); or abridging the freedom of speech (Bush's "free-speech zones" prohibit free speech elsewhere; those with criticisms of Bush anywhere near him are arrested), or of the press (this is a tough one--Bush has fought the periphery of this one, though has otherwise undermined the press so much that he doesn't have to go that far); or the right of the people peaceably to assemble (again, "free-speech zones"), and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances (people are more and more forbidden to sue the government, and Bush allows people to be charged or otherwise punished with the evidence kept secret, making redress impossible).

Amendment II
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized (Bush says he has the power to authorize warrantless eavesdropping and physical searches).

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury (Bush and Congress have obviated this in the name of the War on Terror™), except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law (see above); nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial (You may be taken to Gitmo and held indefinitely without trial), by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law (only if your crime was in Gitmo), and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation (Bush now says this can be classified, sorry); to be confronted with the witnesses against him (also classified); to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor (impossible if everything is classified), and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence (see previous).

Amendment VII
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law (see previous).

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed (partial--bail and fines are moot if you are held without bail and your livelihood destroyed), nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted (torture now allowed).

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people (Bush appointed strict constructionists, who say if it's not in the Constitution, it doesn't exist).

Amendment X
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. (see Amendment IX; also, despite making "states' rights" claims, the Bush administration and the GOP in Congress overrule states whenever they are displeased with what states are doing; prosecution of distribution of medicinal marijuana is one small example)

Did I miss anything?

It might actually be easier to list the parts of the Bill of Rights that Bush hasn't violated. Of those, some are non-relevant because of changing times (quartering soldiers in private homes), some are ones Bush doesn't want or need to change (exception for indictment under military law), or a combination of both (depending on how you read the Second Amendment); and some are on their way out (prohibiting the free exercise of religion--something which goes hand in hand with the marriage of church and state, just takes more time).

You might argue that these violations are not absolute--that most free speech is not infringed, for example, or that most people still don't fall victim to warrantless searches. That argument is wrong. The Bill of Rights is not something you can "partially" uphold; they are absolutes. Violate them even just a few times, and they fall apart. Why? Precedent. Now that Bush has violated most of the Bill of Rights, those violations--unprosecuted, not found unconstitutional--may now be used to justify further incursions against the Constitution. What, did you think the only way the Constitution could be obviated would be all at once? Of course not. It must be destroyed while maintaining the illusion that it is still there. It is destroyed piecemeal, rights and liberties chipped away, until no incursion can be denied. These rights are not revoked, they are simply made weak so they can be violated at will. And so they are.

As for the argument that only some people's rights are violated, that's not just wrong, it's dangerous--and unthinking. There has never been a dictatorship or regime so tyrannical that everyone is oppressed. There's a word for those who agree with other people losing their liberties so long as their own are untouched: collaborators. Think about it.

Posted by Luis at March 20, 2006 10:19 AM

Nicely done, Luis!

Posted by: Sako at March 20, 2006 04:24 PM

Al Qaeda has not hit us once since 9/11. They haven't been able to shoot one taxi driver in 5 years, for example. And how easy is that? The guy is looking forward, he stops at a light, the gun goes off, the passenger walks away. A 12 year old could do it. A grandmother could do it. Yet Al Queda has not been able to get into the usa for 5 years. I think this is the other side of the coin with respect to the additional tools that have been given to law enforcement to go after terrorist.

Then the question is, how helpful have these been, and how restrictive have they been on innocent folks?

This I'm not sure about.

Posted by: ykw at March 21, 2006 02:50 AM

Fabulous post. I wish I could raise my game to that level! :)

Seattle, WA

Posted by: Paul at March 21, 2006 05:22 AM

Sako, Paul, thanks!

Ykw: first of all, terrorists hit us in 1993 (the WTC garage bombing), and then did not try again until seven years later. For seven years we stayed untouched, despite none of these violations being performed.

Second: Al Qaeda does not off taxi drivers. They go for big stuff, and they are methodical and patient.

Third: there is no evidence whatsoever that any of the violations have helped in any way against the terrorists. The same could have been accomplished without these violations, and many of the violations are not even connected to counter-terrorism.

Fourth: even if they did help to some degree, would you actually be willing to surrender the Bill of Rights in exchange for a little more safety?

I addressed the "how restrictive have they been on innocent folks" question in the post, read it again. Let me add this, however: the number of "innocent folks" affected by the above constitutional violations is far, far greater than those who are directly harmed by terrorism. And the effects are longer lasting. And the net benefits are probably non-existent.

Terrorism is an excuse for these violations, not the reason. The people doing the violations wanted to do this stuff, and 9/11 gave them the opportunity. But what really shocks me is that Americans can actually consider giving up the foundation of freedom in our country if they feel that it will make them even a little bit safer. Sorry, but I find that shameful.

The Constitution is the United States of America.

Posted by: Luis at March 21, 2006 08:35 AM

as one who is suffering under violation of the VIII amendment (husbands student loans have increased 300%-I am thinking this is excessive fines and it feels cruel and unusual) This is not my loan nor my childrens loan, but we are also punished. We have not been allowed to purchase a home. All because we have been unable to pay, not unwilling . . .unable. (And now we are just terrified of debt) So how did my government "help" us. By protecting the financial institutions and allowing the loan to expontially increase. Can you say usury? Thanks for the venting space.

Posted by: Dawn at May 18, 2006 10:54 PM