Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Bill of Rights was adopted 220 years ago on this date, in 1791. The bill is made up of the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution, and it was adopted as one unit. It follows the precedent set by the Magna Carta (1215) and the English Bill of Rights (1689), both of which were early attempts at ensuring the rights of citizens against the power of the crown. Much of the credit for the United States Bill of Rights is due to George Mason, who was an admirer of the philosopher John Locke. Locke, in his Two Treatises of Government (1689), argued that government should exist for the protection of individual property, and that all people were equal in the state of nature. Mason had crafted a "Declaration of Rights" for Virginia's constitution in 1776, while serving in that state's legislature. The document impressed James Madison, who showed it to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, in turn, adopted some of its ideas when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.
In the summer of 1787, the Constitutional Convention met to craft the United States Constitution. The Anti-Federalists didn't approve of the document as written because it offered no protection to individual rights, and they refused to sign it. George Mason said, "I would sooner chop off [my] right hand than put it to the Constitution as it now stands." Jefferson wrote to Madison, "A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth." Eventually, the Federalists persuaded the Anti-Federalists to sign by promising them they would address the individual rights matter once the Constitution was ratified. James Madison's feelings were mixed, but he took up the task of writing a bill of rights, which he called "a nauseous project," and he introduced it into the first session of Congress in 1789. After some haggling, the 10 amendments were ratified as one unit, which guarantees, among other things, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to a fair trial. - Writer's Almanac

There Goes the Republic

Once again the gods of war have united our Congress like nothing else. Unable to agree on the minimal spending necessary to save our economy, schools, medical system or infrastructure, the cowards who mislead us have retreated to the irrationalities of what George Washington in his farewell address condemned as “pretended patriotism.” 

The defense authorization bill that Congress passed and President Obama had threatened to veto will soon become law, a fact that should be met with public outrage. Human Rights Watch President Kenneth Roth, responding to Obama’s craven collapse on the bill’s most controversial provision, said, “By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.” On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed “the most recent changes give the president additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength.” 

What rubbish, coming from a president who taught constitutional law. The point is not to hock our civil liberty to the discretion of the president, but rather to guarantee our freedoms even if a Dick Cheney or Newt Gingrich should attain the highest office.

Sadly this flagrant subversion of the constitutionally guaranteed right to due process of law was opposed in the Senate by only seven senators, including libertarian Republican Rand Paul and progressive Independent Bernie Sanders. - more from Robert Scheer

See also Congressional Tyranny, White House Surrender - by Ralph Nader 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i wonder if the air in the oval office was ever tested, it seems that once there they become coin operated machines.