Way We Were
by Edgar J. Steele
corners of my mind,
of the way we were...
- "The Way We Were," Hamlisch and Bergman (1974)
November 13, 2001
Many consider the rights
enumerated within the first ten amendments to the US Constitution (generally
referred to collectively as the "Bill of Rights") as being an
afterthought and, therefore, of lesser import than the basic Constitution
itself. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that
the founders considered those rights to be so fundamental as to supercede the
governing document they were then formulating. They said so in
The framers of the Constitution hotly
debated whether to incorporate the elements of the Bill of Rights into the
initial Constitution but decided against it, precisely because they felt that
would make them targets for future lawmakers who wished to inhibit their
impact. The Constitution, you see, is a document that enumerates what
the central government can do, not what it cannot.
The idea was, if a power wasn't
specifically granted the feds by the Constitution, then it was reserved
to the people and/or the states. Remember, at that time, the federal
government was so weak that it was little more than an early-American NATO.
The states were the political entities about which people felt so strongly.
Nowadays, even the word "state" has been co-opted by the feds, of
Once the Constitution was sent round
the states for ratification, many had second thoughts and decided that it
would be best to run the risk of enumerated rights being made targets, so as
to ensure that some future federal government would not attempt to deny those
rights altogether to the people. In fact, to gain ratification
sufficient to be adopted, many states required the addition of the
amendments now known as the Bill of Rights.
Both sides, as it turns out, were
The "rights" contained
within the Bill of Rights have been whittled away to near nothing. The
ludicrously-named "Patriot Act signed into law last week by Bush the
Second puts the finishing touches to subverting our founding
fathers' intent by denying those rights to us altogether.
Like a middle-aged man,
reach still driven by testosterone, but whose grasp is limited by
physical reality, we Americans only think we are still the people we once
were. No fool like an old fool.
Top Ten List of The Ways We Were:
Number 10: (All powers
not given the federal government reserved to states and people, Tenth Amendment)
- Now, clearly it has become the rights granted by government,
particularly the Federal government, which exist, with all else reserved to
rights to be retained by the people, Ninth Amendment) - Other rights?
Why, even the enumerated rights have been taken away.
and unusual punishment, no excessive bail, Eighth Amendment) - Before the
Patriot Act, I used to ask, "10 years for smoking marijuana rather than
drinking beer?" by way of explaining how this one has
disappeared. Now, indefinite incarceration without trial or,
even, formal charges, is possible merely by calling another a "threat
to national security." As regards bail, judges routinely approve
bail in amounts pegged by prosecutors in amounts designed to guarantee the
accused is not released on bail. Note the comments in number 5, below,
about the use of drugs and torture to extract information, a means to an end
which is in itself a severe punishment unknown in this country for over two
(Trial by jury in civil cases, rule of common law, Seventh Amendment)
- Juries are routinely denied in case after case that I see nowadays.
Certainly, nothing in common law, either British or American,
justifies the provisions of the Patriot Act. Besides, what trial, if
you are deemed a "threat to national security?"
of the accused, to witnesses, confrontation, legal aid and, especially,
to a speedy trial, Sixth Amendment) - Be classified as a "threat
to national security"and go to jail indefinitely, even forever, without
trial or formal charges. Even before the Patriot Act, how do you
hire a decent lawyer after the government confiscates all your assets or
spends you into bankruptcy defending yourself in audits and the like?
The Patriot Act broadens the definition of "domestic terrorism,"
such that those who engage in acts of political protest can
be subjected to wiretapping and enhanced penalties. Of course,
this all means you can be jailed indefinitely, without trial, merely
for politically disagreeing with the authorities.
process of law for taking one's liberty or private property; right
against self incrimination, Fifth Amendment) - The Patriot Act
allows the Attorney General to have anybody thrown in jail indefinitely,
without trial, by the simple expedient of declaring them to be a "threat
to national security." Previously, government has been taking
what it wants, when it wants, via civil forfeiture, with nothing in the way of
due process being observed. Law
enforcement now has a stake in the drug trade.
It’s easier to broker drug deals than to conduct genuine
investigations. If the cops
arrest a burglar right away, they have to return your property.
If they don't take any action till he sells your property and buys
drugs, they get to keep the cash. Furthermore, there is now talk of the
Attorney General wanting to use drugs and torture to extract information from
terrorism suspects in custody. According to Kenneth Starr, five justices
of the U.S. Supreme Court have signaled that they would give "heightened
deference to the judgments of the political branches with respect to matters
of national security," and thus, would be willing to bend the
constitutional rules in a case involving terrorism. In 1936, the
Supremes opined that beatings and other forms of physical and
psychological torture were so offensive to a civilized system that they
must be condemned under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and 14th
Amendments (Brown v. Mississippi). Then, in 1966, they demanded that,
before the government may punish someone, it must "produce the evidence
against him by its own independent labors, rather than the cruel, simple
expedient of compelling it from his own mouth" (Miranda v. Arizona).
4: (No unreasonable search and seizure, no
warrants without probable cause, Fourth Amendment) - Before this, you or your
car could be searched anytime a cop wanted.
At worst, he could always claim he saw you do or drop something
suspicious. Search warrants
required merely the flimsiest of affidavits, often perjured, and a friendly
magistrate. Now, even those limitations have been removed. No
showing of probable cause is required, which means you and your home or
business can be searched at any time, for any reason - for no reason, in
fact. The new law effectively eliminates judicial supervision of
telephone and Internet surveillance by law enforcement authorities in
anti-terrorism investigations and in routine criminal investigations unrelated
to terrorism - that means anything they want to find out about, they
can. Where warrants are still required, they must be signed
upon request. What's really scary is that now the authorities can
come search in your absence and never even tell you about it. Of course,
the ADLled FBI has been doing that for years, but now they can do it legally.
soldiers, Third Amendment) - eliminated by one of Clinton's Executive
Orders, as will be seen when and if martial law is ever declared.
Of course, there is no need for a formal declaration, since all elements save
the complete abrogation of the Posse Comitatus Act have been adopted
already by edict of the Executive Branch. Incidentally, Posse
Comitatus is about to be eliminated at the specific request of Attorney
General Ashcroft and Bush the Second. Posse Comitatus laws
prohibit the used of armed forces personnel in domestic police activity,
because the army just knows how to get a result, while police must be
particularly concerned with the method to be employed. We learned the
folly of ignoring Posse Comitatus laws at Kent State in the
Sixties, when student protestors were shot and killed by nervous
National Guardsmen. Have you noticed the armed National Guardsmen in
America's airports today?
to bear arms, Second Amendment) - already so limited that it does not exist
in most places. Severely restricted in all others. Rapidly on
the way out the door altogether. Confiscation of weapons has begun in
many locales, particularly California.
And, the Number 1 Way We Were: (Right to free speech, free
exercise of religion, right to assemble, right to petition for redress of
grievance, First Amendment) - Perhaps the only amendment with some life
left in it, but the Internet is the only place that free speech still exists
and that is very limited and only for a little while longer. Today,
those who dare to criticize the government or its real masters, largely
composed of the Chosen, are quickly acquainted with reality as their
professions are denied them, their businesses destroyed, their internet access
extinguished. I have written much on this area and will write much more,
in other places, so choose to give it short shrift today. One need only
look at the movement afoot to adopt a national set of "hate laws" to
see how far gone this amendment is. It isn't dead just yet, but it is
lying prone on the floor and breathing shallowly.
Just for fun, let's look in on the next few amendments, too, to see
how they are doing -
(suits against states) - I just had a judge throw out a client’s main cause
of action against the local county because, by statute, the county and its
minions are incapable of being negligent. Tried to sue the
Federal government lately? Even if you have a viable cause of action,
good luck at getting a lawyer to take that case. I had lunch the other
day with a fellow in Montana who did that and he was recently disbarred on
ludicrously trumped-up charges.
(election of President) - Yeah, right. As
if Bush/Gore/McCain/Bradley was
really a choice.
(slavery, punishment without conviction) - I used to say this one was
pretty much still intact, unless you viewed working for half the year to pay
taxes as slavery. Now, being jailed indefinitely without charges
certainly seems to wipe this amendment totally off the board.
(equal protection) - As George Orwell observed in Animal Farm, some are
“more equal than others.” They
are now the judicially-enumerated “protected classes”:
race (only if non-white), sex (female only), religion (state approved
only). The parenthetical
comments are those made by the judges, not me.
This is also where six guys can be involved in a drug deal, five are
cops and one goes to jail. And, don't forget that only white guys can
be guilty of a hate crime. Affirmative action has become so embedded
in society that it is now being administered by the very class of people
that it was designed to protect. Think they're going to give it up any
What previously set America
apart from other republics-cum-democracies was its specific guarantee of
individual rights. Today, America finally joins Canada, Britain,
Germany, France and many others in the pantheon of oligarchic neo-fascism.
In so doing, America takes its place at the head of the table. The stage
now is set for imposition of a world-wide government, the so-called New World
Order, over a hundred years in the making, brought to you live and in living
color by the same folks that brought you Waco.
Historically, a man in the grip of a
midlife crisis buys a red Corvette and heads for the coast with his secretary,
in an attempt to recapture the way he used to be. What do you suppose
the national equivalent of a red Corvette might be? And, for whom do you
suppose we could trade in this rampaging dowager that we wake up next to each
morning? It's time for a change, fellow lemmings. A serious
"I didn't say it would be easy. I just said it
would be the truth."
Copyright © Edgar J. Steele,
Forward as you wish.
Permission is granted to circulate
individuals and groups, post on all Internet
sites and publish
in full in all not-for-profit publications.
Contact author for
all other rights, which are reserved.
Write to me at
Make a difference! The Patriot Civil Liberties Union (PCLU) needs your support
to continue its work fighting for the right of Americans to be free of government tyranny at
all levels and for restoration of the US Constitution as America’s guiding charter. Please mail donations to PCLU, PO Box 1255, Sagle, Idaho 83860. Credit cards: PayPal.com for Donate@PCLU.org; or click the button to the right...