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Dale Farnan

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Is the United States Bill of Rights out of date?

I will use the first and second amendments as examples.

The second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. When the bill of rights was created, weaponry was obviously not as advanced as it is now (muskets were the predominant weapon in the American revolutionary war). Did the founding fathers intend the second amendment to protect rocket launchers and assault rifles?

The first amendment guarantees the right to free speech. This has been cited to protect (for example) huge donations and TV advertisements for elections. The politicians become dependent on these advertisements and donations to win. They must appease the companies that fund their campaign, not the people. This process of corruption is protected by the first amendment; the companies say “We’re allowed to support who we want to win, right? What are advertisements but speech supporting someone?” The first amendment indirectly leads to politicians being controlled by the corporations who fund their campaigns. The founding fathers did not know this would be the case when they wrote the bill of rights.

Is the United States Bill of Rights out of date? Should it be changed? If so, how will a divided government unite enough to be able to do this?


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    Sep 8 2013: This conversation has come up again! What is this... the tenth time in the last ten months?

    There seems to be two schools of thought on this subject and both respond to these conversations each time.

    There are those who have an understanding of the US Constitution and it's place in history as one of the most important political documents ever written.

    Then there are those who unfortunately have no understanding or knowledge of the Constitution or it's meaning of the American way of life. I can forgive those who were born in other lands where they were not afforded access to our Constitution... and then there are those who were born in America after 1960. That was about the time that public schools stop teaching "Civics".
    Today's youth have almost no knowledge of our American Government and most can't even spell "civics" !

    So, here we are again defending the constitution. To whom? And is it worth the effort? Talking to a wall would be more effective. That's what I'm going to do.
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      Sep 9 2013: Sorry if I missed the points made in earlier conversations. I am obviously not an expert on the constitution (although I can spell civics) so if you could educate me instead of talking to a wall that would be wonderful.
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        Sep 9 2013: I guess you deserve that.
        Your debate was ill conceived and the premises shows a lack of understanding of the constitution and it's meaning and implications.

        I am happy you can spell civics, It's that you don't seem to understand it.

        So, go back and study the constitution, read the federalist papers and the anti federalist papers.
        Study American History from 1750 to 1820 and all the players aka the founding fathers.

        If you want to debate the constitution consider that amendments have been made that have weaken the original constitution and are straining the fabric of the federation of the many states.
        Now that would be a debate.
    • Sep 9 2013: I went to school starting in 1971. I got several years of Civics in that time.
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        Sep 9 2013: 1971
        You got bupkiss for your civics class... it was all about the 14th Amendment


        OK, Why did the anti federalists get the 10 of 11 Amendments into the original constitution and when the the 11th pass?
        • Sep 9 2013: My Civics class was not all about the 14th Amendment.

          As for the Amendments, the Anti-Federalists were frightened that lacking specific enumeration of rights, the government would forget that it was a government of strictly granted powers and had no innate sovereignty. They were right. However, the Federalists were also right in two of their great fears, to be addressed below. By the way, Mr. know-it-nothing, there were TWELVE original Amendments, not eleven. In the order they were ratified:

          1. Parliament had a long history of interfering with the press and pamphleteers. Likewise, it highly favored the Established Church fiscally and politically. Thus, these two issues were still sore spots among the Anti-Federalists, who wished to ensure they would never happen again. Likewise, there was squabbling among Congregationalists (New England), Episcopalians (South and Middle), Friends (Pennsylvania), Catholics (Maryland and elsewhere), et al. Thus, the central government had to be prohibited from establishing a church.

          2. The first large-scale military act Parliament took against the colonies was attempted seizure of militia stores, although there were other problems, as well. Likewise, the USA was NEVER supposed to have a standing army. Therefore, guaranteeing a militia both eased the fears of Anti-Federalists and ensured that there was an emergency reserve that had, at least, very basic familiarity (extremely basic--militias were crap in all our wars and remained crap until they got trained up to regular levels) with military matters. Militias also provided a police reserve, fire brigade, etc.

          3. Parliament had a very bad habit of not respecting property rights in the colonies. Thus, they appropriated private property for military purposes, without compensation or choice. Even though the USA was not to have standing army, this still was a sore spot and was, therefore, prohibited.

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        • Sep 9 2013: 4. Again, Parliament and their officials had a habit of simply seizing what they wanted and searching however they wanted. By the time of the Revolution, the colonies were essentially a military occupation, with all the attendant results. Requiring a warrant upon probable cause was supposed to prevent frivolous or personally-motivated "investigations". Authorities were supposed to show that some crime had actually been committed and not just go "fishing".

          5. Requiring the Grand Jury was to prevent "Court of Star Chamber" like events or "Admiralty" type courts from threatening Americans with the death penalty or other severe punishments on their own authority. Grand Juries have to be assembled from local citizens. Without this protection, administrators could simply decide to prosecute on their whim--which is what often happens today in the USA, anyway, now that Grand Juries are just rubber stamps. The double jeopardy prohibition also addressed a previous abuse, wherein someone not convicted would just be re-tried. Prohibition against compulsory self-incrimination was to eliminate use of torture to extract false confessions. Protection of life, liberty, and property by due process both addressed previous abuses and was the first that the FUNDAMENTAL rights of the Enlightenment were explicitly enshrined in the Constitution.

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        • Sep 9 2013: 6. This addresses several of the abuses of courts under the colonies, both colonial courts and Crown courts. The various rights herein stated are those that were often violated. Accused could languish for years without trial. Verdicts came from the accuser or the accuser's underlings. Charges were not explained--that is, trials were not always for specific violations of specific laws. Witnesses could just make a statement and go--no questions asked. It was easy for defense witnesses to be prevented from testifying by government. Even the well-off would, on occasion, be denied counsel.

          7. Again, this answered a current or recent abuse--it ensured that, when the stakes were high, the matter was judged by a jury and could not be flatly overruled by a judge. It was not uncommon for someone acquitted by a jury to, if the other side were influential, find the matter reversed rather quickly by a judge who didn't follow the common law rules of appeal.

          8. Torture and indentured servitude were used as punishments by the British during the Revolution. Likewise, it could happen that a judge would levy ridiculous fines simply to personally ruin someone.

          9. This is my favorite amendment. I like to call this the Federalist Bill of Rights. While the Anti-Federalists insisted that rights had to be enumerated, the Federalists argued that enumerating rights would be used to disparage the existence of rights not so enumerated. Thus, to answer this objection to a Bill of Rights, this spells out that the existence of a Bill of Rights does not mean that a right must be enumerated to exist. Right to privacy? Whether or not it is listed in the Constitution DOES NOT determine whether or not it exists. The 9th Amendment makes that plain.

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        • Sep 9 2013: 10. Not all Anti-Federalists cared a damn about individual rights. Some of them really just wanted to keep a confederacy of 13 sovereign states. This was a bone thrown to them. However, it does underline the fear that centralization would overtake Constitutional limits on power. Thus, all powers (note "powers", not "rights") not EXPLICITLY granted to the Federal government still belonged to the states or the people. It was supposed to keep the Federal government from sticking in its nose where unwanted.

          11. This was passed in the 1990s, early in the 1990s. It was supposed to prevent Congress from using its position to enrich itself. By the time it actually happened, it was just a symbolic gesture, since the real money comes from cushy lobbying jobs after one is done with Congress or from other "business deals".

          12. Never passed. It was supposed to ensure "just" or "fair" representation in Congress. It would have made for a gigantic Congress.

          Of the 10 Amendments originally passed, nine are now routinely violated by the Federal government to some extent or another. In particular, the 9th fares the worst, followed by the 10th. The 1st is more subtly violated (free speech provisions) and oddly stretched in its religious provisions. The 2nd is routinely violated. However, I would remind states' rightists that, provisions such as the 1st Amendment's anti-establishment clause ought not apply to the states, then the 2nd Amendment also ought not apply to the states--can't cherry-pick. Fourth is shredded, "public" gets redefined so often that in my bathroom, with all doors and windows locked will one day be ruled a "public space", not subject to the 4th Amendment. Remember, your driveway, behind a fence, with a closed gate, now counts as "public" in terms of whether or not the cops need a warrant to put a tracker on your car.

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        • Sep 9 2013: So, on to the Fifth: Yes, the anti-incrimination clause is still enforced, however, due process no longer exists for property. "Civil forfeiture" and "eminent domain" means that government can seize property whenever it feels like it, for no reason at all, and threaten you with prison if you object. PS: This is usually done in the name of "law and order" or "war on drugs" or "development", not for explicitly leftist causes. Sixth? The law is now so complex that it is often that a defendant doesn't understand the charge against him and would have to be an attorney to understand it. Speedy trials are often denied. Seventh: Verdicts get overturned on causes that don't even adhere to basic common sense, much less common law. Eight: Just look at what gets levied against people for the most trifling of acts (selling milk not in accordance to a pack of monopoly-supporting regulations, for example). Nine: Conservatives hate this amendment, with their constant harping of "Where is that right in the Constitution." Congress and the courts pretend this amendment doesn't exist. Ten: Liberals hate this amendment, since is points out their beloved central government isn't supposed to be omnipotent--doesn't stop the Feds from extending their powers ridiculously, cf, Wickert v. Filburn.

          PS: I am the product of a public school education.
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        Sep 9 2013: Very good.

        But, I only asked the amendments passed not offered.

        I was called away before I could further comment
        Your analysis is not what's offered in any K-12 public school that I am aware.
        And that was my point. Most high school graduates and too many college students have
        little or no understanding or appreciation for the Constitution and Early American History..
        In fact the disinformation is mind boggling as you can see in some of these comments.

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