Brett Rants

Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America

I've criticized the rest; now, I'm coming for you.

The High Concept

As I start this project, I could not tell you how many Amendments there are, much less what each Amendment has to say for itself. Thus, part of the purpose of this project (and/or web page, if that's the way you want to look at it) is for me to spend a little time with each Amendment. And while I'm doing that, I might as well rant a little.

Which is to say, if the purpose of a jury is to determine matters of fact (as opposed to matters of law), I would contend that matters of law are the most fundamental matters of fact around. And thus, I would pull the power of law away from the politicians and lawyers and return it to The People, to whom it obviously belongs.

I hope that's radical enough for you.

But if it's not clear enough. Suffice to say, I plan on speaking my mind.

Shall we begin?

Amendment I (1791)

Freedom of Speech
Freedom of the Press
Freedom to Assemble
Freedom of Worship
Freedom to Make Websites Critical of the Powers that Be

This is one mother of an Amendment! Way to go Founding Fathers!

First, I will note (that in my not so humble opinion), it is impossible to have both Obscenity Laws and Free Speech.

I am sorry, dear teacher, but I find the concept of homework to be obscene and will violently oppose any further discussion on the matter, calling the police and having you arrested if that's what it comes to.

Secondly, although I like the idea, it is impossible to extract Religion... from Philosophy... from a Moral Code... from Laws. If you've read any of my other posts (or at least, any of the relevant ones), you will know that I believe the fundamental purpose of a government (a pure and true government) is to enforce The Moral Good. And if that's not a statement of Personal Belief (i.e. a religion), I don't know what is.

Finally, just as an aside, I do not believe religious (or non profit) institutions should be treated differently from ones that have been organized for profit. The distinction creates arbitrary special cases (bad for legal clarity) and encourages the disassociation of morality from the rest of life.

Amendment II (1791)

Guns Be Good

I like guns. Guns are fun. I still think they should be against the law without exception. Basically, hunting can be done with spears (I'm not wild about replacing guns with crossbows), home defence is available by non-lethal means (and/or sharp swords and pointed sticks), and the only time a police officer should be carrying a lethal weapon is when they are planning on killing someone immediately (you know, like that guy carrying that gun).

Taken as a whole, I believe the Amendment is advocating Militias, which I support. And as an extension of the government (think The National Guard on a more local level, so the Third Street Irregulars), Militias should be allowed to stockpile weapons. But lo (I say, 'Lo!') to the idiot, who betrays the public trust in this regard.

Or in other words, I think checking folks for weapons before they get on an airplane should be sort of redundant.

They're already in the Country. How could they possibly be carrying a loaded weapon?

Amendment III (1791)

We Have Rules for That

In theory, this Amendment is about the quartering of soldiers, but as it ends with the phrase 'but in a manner to be prescribed by law', it's basically meaningless.

The Powers That Be will do whatever is required to remain the Powers That Be, until such a time that they are no longer the Powers That Be; at which point, the new Powers That Be will judge the old Powers That Were and decide if their actions were warranted or not.

Besides, there really isn't much of a difference between being forced to take on a soldier as a roommate and being forced to take on a roommate so one can pay the taxes to pay for a soldier's boarding, you know, so one doesn't have to take on a soldier as a roommate in the first place.

Amendment IV (1791)

Searches, Seizures, and Arrests Shall Be Reasonable

This is, of course, another one of those opinionated statements. What one person considers 'Reasonable Search and Seizure' may have little correlation to the opinions of another.

Personally, I would happily make do with a lot less privacy for universal enforcement of certain laws (say, gun control). And although I could care less whether my fellow citizens enjoy mind altering drugs, I would think deployment of enough drug sniffing dogs would lay the problem to rest once and for all... if getting rid of all the mind altering drugs is really what we want to do.

Eh, it may be a naive perspective, but as the future unfolds and video surveylaince becomes the norm, I'm going to guess it will becomes harder and harder to successfully speed, run a stop sign, commit vandalism, and shop lift from stores.

I suppose one can worry about the watchful eye of Big Brother. But anyone who knows me, knows I don't want to give Big Brother exclusive access to the raw feeds. I want universal access for universal enforcement of all the laws, all the time, for everybody without any exceptions. It's OK if you speed to get your pregnant wife to the hospital, just expect to have a $100 traffic ticket waiting for you when you get there, an expense worth the cost for most, I'm guessing.

Amendment V (1791)

No Double Jeopardy
No Forced Confessions
and other rules of law

We actually have Double Jeopardy in America... and probably always will. First, one can be summoned to court (and/or trial) by both the civil and criminal systems at the same time for basically the same offence. And secondly, one can be tried separately by both the Feds and the States... and likely the Military, as well... along with any number of Injun Nations, you know, if I had to guess.

Also, it's easy enough to charge a person with a thousand and one crimes so as to induce a plea bargain. It would actually be an interesting study to count how many charges are brought to bear on average and compare that to final convictions. The difference between the two being the degree to which prosecuting attorneys routinely overstep their bounds and subvert justice.

I am not saying it is in your best interest to plead guilty to small time potatoes possession of drug charge, but if you do not, we will be seeking the death penalty for felonious possession of twenty four different controlled substances with intent to distribute said same to nursery school full of innocent young children. So, I am just saying, make decision carefully... or we crucify you.

Finally, rather than letting myself get bogged in a discussion of one's right not to self incriminate (and since this Amendment mainly has to do with trial rights, in the first place), let me just say that in America, we have what is known as an Adversarial Legal System. When that police officer says 'anything you say can and will be used against you', what he's actually saying is that when push comes to shove, he will be testifying against you... as will all the other 'expert witnesses' that take the stand on behest of The State.

In short, The System is not about justice. But it should be.

Amendment VI (1791)

Right to a Fair Trial
By a Jury of Peers
With the Assistance of Counsel

I think (and as this entire post is about what I think, I don't know why I feel the need to qualify it, but there it is all the same, a heart felt belief) that no one really cares about the guilty.

I know I do not care about the guilty.

Do you care about the guilty?

I suppose we might want to define who the guilty are. And in this, I actually won't be much use. But I am happy to use the 1 in 12 rule. As in, if a suspect cannot convince a single person out of a group of twelve as to the likelihood of their innocence, then I am OK considering said suspect guilty. And if twelve citizens can agree on a suitable punishment for that guilty party, well, more power to them... and I am OK with whatever (and I mean, whatever) they decide.

So, with the forgoing as a sort of preamble, I will posit that this Amendment is about having fair trials.

We don't have fair trials in the Good Old US of A. Trials are about garnering convictions rather than ascertaining truth or administering justice; and so, they are not fair.

When two things are fair, they are about evenly matched. This is hardly ever the case in a criminal trial. Just count up the labor hours used by the prosecution (prosecutor, police, expert witnesses, and so on and so forth) and compare this to the defence (typically the defensive counsel, standing alone) and it's clear there is nothing fair about this game.

Add to that the systemic stacking of the eligible jurors with those willing to convict... and the very fact that one needs to be a lawyer to understand criminal proceedings... and the net result is a complete and total lack of faith in the system by yours truly.

You want me to believe in your Criminal Justice System? Then, how about making truth and justice it's primary occupation.

And until that point in time, the best course of action is to assume 'Anything you say can and will be used against you,' and keep your fr!cking mouth shut.

Amendment VII (1791)

We are a Nation of Laws

Read the actual Amendment, if you care. It's not that long. It's not that complicated. And it ends with a nice conditional clause that renders it mute.

In other news, I believe the citizens (not governmental employees or elected officials) should decide all points of law, as well as the interpretation of all private contracts.

I don't have a problem calling this political system Anarchy. But besides a bit of name calling, I'm not sure how it could be any worse than the current system.

Amendment VIII (1791)

Fines, Bail, and Punishments Shall Be Reasonable.

And since reason is in the eyes of the beholder, we have said nothing.

Most jurisdictions have laws against littering; however, litter is relatively easy to find.

Speed limits are common (shall we say, ubiquitous); but then, so are speeders.

The penalties for both are out-sized, I am told, for reasons of deterrence. Yet, they hardly deter. Do you know what would deter both litterers and speeders? If they knew, without a doubt, that they would get caught and have to pay a fine each and every time they littered or sped. And if that were the case, it would not matter one iota how trivial the fine was, because being pulled over to pay a 25¢ traffic ticket takes more than a quarter in time... and it just gets darn annoying, after awhile.

Johnson! If you are late one more time, you might as well not bothering showing up!

Or in other words, excessive fines (and most fines are excessive) are not just unjust, but they are also indicative of an unjust legal system wherein an unlucky few pay an over the top price for the guilty many.

Or, in other words, if the average citizen actually thought drug use, was wrong, there simply would not be that many people doing drugs.

Amendment IX (1791)

Tie Goes to the People

I'll write this Amendment out completely.

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

Do you want to know what was supposed to back this one up?

A Well Regulated Militia

Force respects force.
Power respects power.

Thousands upon thousands of laws later and it's pretty clear no one takes The Constitution seriously... because the folks in charge don't have to.

Amendment X (1791)

Ties Goes to the People: Part II

I might as well include the complete text of this one, as well.

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.

I admit it. I read shorthand and think shorthand. And so, after consolidating Amendment IX & X to their base intent (and/or features), I come up with the same thing:

Everything not required for a fully functioning government is reserved for the people.

Or, in other words, I am a Libertarian (as in a Libertine) at heart. Of course, I may take that whole Libertarian thing a bit further than most would; and so, find it more convenient to label myself as an Anarchist, these days.

Anyhow, to my mind, Libertarians are (typically, after all, who am I to speak for another) in favor of a minimum of laws: i.e. 'Let the people do what they want.' And I agree, only I like to think that I am a little more socially aware; and thus, would repeal more laws (or should that be fewer laws) than the typical Libertine.

I'll try to keep the rational for the foregoing statement relatively simple and straightforward.

The government and the market are one (see, easy). The government enforces the laws of the market (like, duh). And therefore (here comes the tricky part), the government shapes and defines the market (as in, the government and the market are one). Now, us Libertine type folks are (typically) more interested in the removal of existing laws than in the creation of new laws. But removing a law that benefits one side of the market without taking away the corresponding laws which benefit the other side of the market is unfair. And since I am all about fairness, this means I am in favor of removing the laws on both sides of the typical transaction, which means removing almost all of the laws on the books.

After all, I think Aleister Crowley (and not Anais Nin, as I had thought) had it right when he said, 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.'

'And we wilt throw your scraggly buttocks in jail until the end of time,' said The Twelve Angry Men (i.e. the jury) to the person (the poor sap), who only moments before was considered innocent until proven guilty.

And now, as we reach the end of this section, it is time for you (or if not you, the next person who reads this page) to disagree and state that such a system would only lead to Anarchy!

But, you know, it would not lead to Anarchy, it would be Anarchy! And to that I can only say, 'Go Anarchy!'

Whatever the case, I am of the opinion, that Our Founding Fathers and The Constitution they wrote are designed to support the absence of laws (so, once again, 'Go Anarchy!') much more than the creation of new laws. Too bad the idiots in charge don't agree.

Amendment XI (1795)

Foreigners Can't Sue US

And by US, I mean the United States of America. Or, in other words, the United States may not be sued by foreign people (or powers) in its own courts.

Once again, for me, this is just a bit of legal nitpicking. I find it hard to believe anyone looks at this Amendment and says to themselves, 'That! Right there! That is what the Constitution is all about!'

It's just a bit of legal protectionism, which means the Constitution (and these here Amendments) were written by lawyers, in pursuit of The Law, and that in itself may go a long way towards explaining why I am less than thrilled as I go down the list. These are not moral standards or ethical concerns. These words were not written by philosophers. They were written by lawyers.

And as such, they sort of fail as a Mission Statement (and/or go wildly astray).

Foreign Powers hold no Dominion over the US. It's not a bad policy. But it's not an enlightened one, either.

On the plus side, it keeps the victims of drone strikes and the like from suing for restitution, which could really bog down the court system in time of war, if you know what I mean.

Amendment XII (1804)

Votes Will Be Conducted in an Orderly Manner

Truthfully, I stopped reading about halfway through this Amendment, as this Amendment just changes the way (for I assume there was a way before) in which Presidential elections are conducted.

I guess, one person, one vote, was too complicated to enact.

And by these words may future generations know that we were twits, heads firmly embedded in our backsides, as we quibbled over the smallest of details and sought to remove ever more agency and power from the people.

Also, this Amendment is quite wordy. And one of my side projects in relation to my investigation of these here Constitutional Amendments will be to see how their length varies over time. The Bill of Rights (those first Ten Amendments) are basically shortish run-on sentences; whereas, later Amendments are so complicated, subsections are required to achieve organizational cohesion: a sure sign the lawyers have gained the upper hand.

Amendment XIII (1865)

Slavery is a Monopoly of the State

So, this is one of those Amendments with Sections. And important Sections they are, as the second one gives congress the right to enact laws to enforce this Amendment (you know, as opposed to every other Amendment on this list, the twits).

And then, slavery isn't really made illegal. Civil slavery is. But if the government convicts one of a crime (no mention on how severe that crime has to be), then all bets are off.

Now, just as a point of reference, roughly 1 in 50 (or close to 7,500,000 Americans) are currently being chewed-up by the Criminal Justice System: including those on probation (not yet in jail), those actually in jail, and those out on parole (i.e. early release from jail); or so is my understanding.

First, those numbers bely an unbelievable betrayal of the people by the government, as I refuse to believe the proportion of bad (or evil) people is that high.

And second, come on, that's a whole lot of potential slaves we (as a society) are letting slip through the cracks.

Murder: Slavery for Life

Drunk Driving: Slavery for Life

Idiotic Rants Criticizing the Social Order: Slavery for Life

OK. Fair enough. I might not be able to do better. But My System would be different. And if I wrote an Amendment to Outlaw Slavery, I would fr!cking well Outlaw Slavery.

On the other hand, why a person would ever want to do such a thing is beyond me.

Littering: Slavery for Life

Speeding: Slavery for Life

Running that Red Light: Slavery for Life

Eh, I should have gone into Politics... er, I mean, Human Resource Management.

Amendment XIV (1868)

Citizens Be Citizens
Debt Be Debt

In Summary:
  1. Those born in the United States shall be Citizens. And as Citizens, they have the rights of Citizens, which include (and may just be limited) to being treated like Citizens.
  2. Only Citizens can vote.
  3. If you rebel against your government, you are not a Citizen. You are a traitor, you traitorous non-Citizen, you.
  4. And finally, the debts of the government 'shall not be questioned', so don't even think about it.
In truth, there's a lot more in there. But I can't be bothered to read it, as my eyes can barely focus on the words. You just know (just know) there was a lot of negotiating going on when they hashed out these particular words. But for the most, I do not care. Maybe that's why I waited six months between writing up the XIII & XIV amendments?

Amendment XV (1870)

Citizens Can Vote

You know, being a Democracy, Citizens can vote. And also, being a Democracy, Citizens who used to be slaves (sorry about all that) can also vote.

There is nothing wrong with this Amendment. But also, nothing right. If after one hundred years of Nationhood someone (or say, the vast majority of the Citizens of this fine land) felt it was important to reassure everyone that they could vote, well, something is (and/or was) fundamentally wrong.

As a note, these last three come about at the end of the Civil War. And on that note, they are about redefining Citizenship to include Freed Slaves and about denying the Legal Validity of anything those dastardly rogues (otherwise known as The Confederacy) may have done... like contracting debt, because you know how fiscally irresponsibly criminals (sorry, I meant displaced politicians) can be.

Amendment XVI (1913)

Income Tax

I have read quite a few... er, um, Radical Texts, yeah, that's what I'll call them... in which it was held that the Federal Government did not have the right to tax incomes, but... er, um, after reading this Amendment, I'd say that's pretty much the only thing this Amendment is about.

And since governments and taxes go hand in hand (one really cannot have the one without the other); and since, I'd rather be ruled by a <quote> Government <un-quote> than a Band of Renegade Pirates (however polite they might at first seem), I have no philosophical difficulties with taxation.

Though, I will say that the only rational way to compare two governments (hypothetically over a beer... or however you may wish) is to compare how much one gets from the governments in question (say, something like Freedom of Speech, which happens to be a pretty good perk) with how much one has to give the government in return (i.e. taxes, and what this Amendment happens to be about).

In the end,
The money they take
Is equal to the tanks they can make!

Amendment XVII (1913)

Can't Live With Them,
Can't Live Without Them

Presumably, this Amendment changes the rules for electing Senators. But since I don't know the old rules, I could care less.

One wonders on the eve of WWI, if this was the most pressing issue facing our Great Country?

Amendment XVIII (1919)

Beer Bad

So, like, if you've enjoyed this article, please buy me a beer... or don't because that is now against the law!

But heroin (by all appearances) would be good to go!

Oh, wait! Maybe not! The phrase is 'intoxicating liquors'. So, maybe if one is sure to procure their drugs in powdered rather than in the notoriously evil liquid form, all will be well.

But Officer, it's Medical Moonshine!

Amendment XIX (1920)

Girl Power!

Girls can vote!

Or a bit more accurately, one cannot deny girls the right to vote.

And then, the country goes to shite!

Thanks Feminine Agenda!

Amendment XX (1933)

Mumbo Jumbo

This Amendment concerns itself with the details of Presidential Succession and the like. And outside of High School Students, I cannot see anyone ever caring about this particular Amendment.

That's right kids! Are you taking an American Studies Test and can't guess the right Amendment? Well then, maybe try guessing Amendment XX, better known as the Throw Away Amendment.

On the plus side, the Amendment also states that 'Congress shall assemble at least once in every year,' so it has that going for it.

On the downside, Congress will now convene yearly... and you know what happens when those Boys (and/or Girls) get together. They pass laws. Never a good thing.

Amendment XXI (1933)

Get Your Drunk On

Banning Beer turned out to be a bad idea.


Our bad!

Never mind!

Party on!

Amendment XXII (1951)

Enough is Enough

'No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice...'

I take it as a failure of Political Ingenuity that in the intervening years, no political party has ever been able to pass the Amendment, which states 'No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than Once...'


Get that down to Zero and we might just have ourselves a real Democracy, one day...

Amendment XXIII (1961)

District of Columbia Gets to Vote for President

Don't ask me why we needed a separate Amendment for this. But I am fast coming to the conclusion that the later in time the Amendments were adopted the less meaningful they were.

But then, we all know this was just a stop gap measure to prevent the District of Columbia from seceding from The Union and attacking Canada, so I guess it worked.

Amendment XXIV (1964)

No Poll Taxes

Now, listen up, because I am only going to say this a half dozen times. Citizens of the United States (you know who you are... or if not, this will be covered in another half dozen Amendments) have the Right to Vote! And the Right to Vote will not be abridged... no matter how clever you think you are being!

Now, stop it!

And play nice!

Amendment XXV (1967)

There Will Not Be a Coup

This may well be the longest (and therefore, least important) Amendment of them all. Suffice to say, it covers what happens when a President leaves office. Oddly enough, this happened four years later when Richard Nixon was forced (and/or asked) to step down.


I think not!

'Hey, guys! We got this cool new Amendment, what say we check it out and see if it works?'
'Yeah... OK.'
'I'm in.'

And the rest is Presidential Impeachment History.

Amendment XXVI (1971)

Old Enough to Die
Old Enough to Vote

Listen up you little whipper snappers, The Vietnam Insurgency & Peace Making Protective Mission is happening whether you like it or not. But in an effort to put an end to your endless pissing and moaning (didn't work), we'll be giving Young Men & Women (eighteen and older, proof of citizenship required) the right to vote (for the complete and utter moron, idiot, or fool of their choice) in all future governmental elections.


Sorry, I was being sarcastic.
Of course, you're not happy.
The music of your generation sucks.
The clothes you are wearing make you look like a mentally retarded idiot.
No, wait.
Scratch that.
You look even more stupid than a mentally retarded idiot.
And your hair looks like you lost a bet or something.
But, hey!
Here's a gun and a backpack full of ammo!
Now, go out there and shoot something!

And they call me socially irresponsible.

Amendment XXVII (1992)

No Pay Raises

Senators (the Rat Bastards) and Representatives (lowly Wannabes, the lot) cannot vote themselves pay raises. But they can do whatever they want for their successors... even if they happen to be their own successors... or those successors turn out to be their Frat Brother Drinking Buddies™.

Oh! I almost forgot (as so many of these Amendments turned out to be about boring old booking keeping stuff) but when I started this project, I was going to comment on each and every Amendment. So, let me comment on this Amendment, right here, right now, in an insightful and meaningful way, just like I've done for every other Amendment.

First (let me just say), Public Servants should not get paid, so the notion of pay raises is oxymoronic.

Secondly (so, thank you for letting me say), should a Public Servant be found guilty of Corruption and/or Betrayal of the Public Trust, the punishment should be as for Treason, as that's what Betrayal of the Public Trust is.

So, guilty until proven innocent?
Yeah, I think that's how it should work...

Amendment XXVIII (20XX)

The Non-Existent Amendment

What should it be?

But then, that is more properly the subject of a different post, so it will have to wait for another day, week, month, or year, as this project has taken a lot longer to finish (sitting on the back burner as it has been for the last six months) than I ever expected.

So, although I have a few graphs and such. I think I'll put those in a separate post, so all you disinterested slackers will have a compelling reason to hit that next button.

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