About those other 9 Amendments

Like the good twit that I am, I decided to get in on the big #FreetoTweet event Thursday for Bill of Rights Day. Using every one of my 140 available characters, I wrote:

#FreetoTweet – Free to tweet, speak, worship, publish, assemble, petition, bear arms, protect person and property, etc. http://t.co/dzMKrajx

I pushed the “Tweet” button and went to see what my fellow hash-markers were saying. After a while I thought maybe I’d misunderstood the purpose. Almost all of the messages were about how great the First Amendment is. Many of them advertised sweepstakes and sales related to Bill of Rights Day. Somebody had a contest going – best First Amendment tweet wins a scholarship.

Well, I am as big a fan as anyone of the First Amendment. Free speech, the freedom to worship as we please, publish what we want, peaceably assemble and give grief to the government (I paraphrase) are all rights that ought to be etched in stone.

It’s just that, well, Thursday was Bill of Rights Day, not First Amendment Day.

It’s as if everyone decided to ignore the right to own and carry weapons, the right not to have a standing army in the neighborhood, the right not to have your person and property searched or seized without probable cause, the right to remain silent, the right to a speedy trial by a jury of peers, the right to face your accusers, and the right that states and the individual have to any and all powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution.

Oh. Wait. Everyone has decided to ignore those rights. Sorry.


Happy Bill of Rights Day

To mark Bill of Rights Day and to celebrate the new look and name of this blog, here’s a little something I wrote for the dearly departed Green Bay News-Chronicle for July 7, 2001 …
July 4 festival-goers lukewarm about Bill of Rights

Americans celebrated the nation’s 225th birthday on Wednesday without apparently having a firm grasp on what we were celebrating.

In a survey taken during Green Bay’s Celebrate Americafest by the Libertarian Party of Northeast Wisconsin, slightly less than 60 percent said they were unwilling to support what the pollsters called the Constitutional Rights Clarification Amendment.

The problem is that the “amendment” has already been passed – more precisely, the 10 amendments of the Bill of Rights, which were printed verbatim on the petition.

Eric Christianson, vice chairman of the local party, said that only 11 of the 232 people who were surveyed realized they were reading the amendments that recognize freedom of religion, speech and the press, the right to bear arms, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, protection against self-incrimination, and the other tenets of the Bill of Rights.

Some people signed or declined without reviewing the document very carefully, but most took the time to read it through and ask questions about some of the issues, he said.

“My favorite response is from the guy who declined to sign saying, ‘This would interfere with the judicial system because there’s a vagueness inherent to the Constitution and this would make it black and white,'” Christianson said.

The response that Christianson said was either the scariest or the funniest was from a man who identified himself as an off-duty police officer.

“He said he knows all about the Constitution because he works with it every day,” he said. “But then he handed it back and said, ‘I can’t sign this – there are portions of this with which I disagree.'”

Bob Collison, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin, said the results reflect his belief that Americans are not very well-informed about what is happening in politics.

“They’ll parade in the name of freedom, but ask them about these issues and they really don’t come down on the side of freedom,” Collison said. “When you come down to it, even during the Revolutionary War a minority of people were involved in the fighting. It’s always a minority that makes the changes.”

The Constitutional Rights Clarification Amendment

1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, 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 offense 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; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public 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, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

7. 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 reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

10. 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.

Our deepest and highest impulse is to peace

Somewhere near our core is a violent impulse, and so there will always be men and women who choose force to get their way – and we must be vigilant.

But in our very deepest place we mean no harm to others. Our deepest and highest impulse is to peace – to leave others alone and to be left alone to enjoy and explore this world, this universe.

Perhaps here, on this world more than eight light years from Earth, we may build a commonwealth where all have so much plenty that none have the urge to take lives and property from their neighbors by violence.

— Raymond Douglas Kaliber
of Sirius IV

I aim to complete The Imaginary Revolution in 2012. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Smoke and mirrors

It’s troubling news that a significant amount of the Black Friday business boost came because people were putting it all on credit:

On Black Friday, payments made with credit cards rose 7.4% from a year earlier, vs. an increase of 3.4% for payments with signature debit cards, according to First Data, a payments processing firm. An analysis by Javelin Strategy & Research forecasts that credit card payments for online purchases will increase 63% from 2011 to 2016, vs. 2% for debit cards.

I even heard one radio news report that attributed it to “frugal fatigue” – that theory said people were so tired of watching their budgets that they went on a binge spending spree.

Why not? That’s how our governments have been paying for their increased spending for years. That’s why “debt service” is a growing chunk of the budget – and why there’s less money available to pay for more increased spending.

With smoke and mirrors, we create the illusion of consumer health. But somewhere down the road, these people won’t be able to buy as many Christmas gifts, because they’re still paying off this year’s gifts at 27 percent interest.

The solution is to spend less than you make. Easier said than done for many (most?) of us. And given the demonization of politicians who actually attempt to live within their means, don’t expect governments to adopt that philosophy anytime soon.