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Monday, September 5, 2011

The Constitution

This is an older piece - daughter is in her 20's now and I can't call her "short stuff" anymore - but it seems right to revisit it considering current events. Hope you enjoy and comment!

The Constitution

James Scotte Burns II

"Dad, why don't you be president?"
It certainly seemed an innocent enough question from a ten year old, and well within the bounds of the political discussion then in progress. Yet, as I considered the option later, the answer became much more involved than the initial response I supplied. Not more appealing, just involved. My daughter seemed satisfied as I declined her nomination for president, explaining that I could not abide those humor-challenged Armani drones following us around for the rest of our lives, peering at us through their Ray Charles disguises. Secret Service guys are rarely adept at playing four-square or pushing a swing without getting a bunch of wires tangled around their brief cases. Besides, we know how Mom gets when denied quiet nights at home, and the White House is known to harbor unkempt guests from god-knows-where nearly every night. I love what remains of my country, but household harmony comes first.

Still, as I lay awake on the sofa that night, watching Star Trek reruns as if something unexpected might happen, I pondered why fellows like me or Carter Braxton, (one of the ten Founding Farmers signing the Declaration of Independence), no longer vie for high office. Something seemed fundamentally screwed up. How can a nation founded on the noble principle of a representative government of citizens serving their country and then going back home to grow tobacco, deteriorate into the current comic fiefdom displayed on what passes for the news these days? A nation ruled by a permanent cabal of Alpha-lawyers and philandering bluebloods intent on regulating and bureaucratizing every facet of the society whose industry provides them the lofty perch on which they park their adipose butts? This sobering contemporary scenario left me with two obvious questions. What the hell happened to us, and what if anything, could I do about it if I were president?

First thing's first. What the hell did happen to us? What brought this great nation to its hands and knees and made it whimper its insecurity like some cowering, baby-powdered toy poodle pissing on itself in the back of a perfume stained Mary Kay Cadillac? There is no single causal factor involved in this lycanthropic conversion and the change happened over several decades.

It probably began with the ratification of the sixteenth Amendment in 1913. This is the act allowing government to confiscate a percentage of people's earnings before they had even seen the money. The self-righteous bastards followed this in 1919 by outlawing liquor, thinking that if the citizenry bit on that income tax thing, they were probably stoned out of their proletariat gourds. We straightened up only long enough to figure out that females ought to be able to vote, since they were helping to pay for everything (Amendment 19). Next, we invented talking movies, assuming that Hollywood always had important things to say, flushed most of our personal resources down the sewers of New York, made a New Deal with what remained of our unconfiscated wealth, and then decided it was time to start drinking again.

Following on the heels of these little morsels of history, we fought against world totalitarian domination; something at which we were really quite good. Then we formed the United Nations, so that everyone else in the world could share in the bounty of that sixteenth Amendment thing. Somewhere in there we learned how to incinerate vast areas of hostile territory using little more than a big uranium-rich Heathkit. Americans accomplished much of this under the popular and fatherly reign of the most propaganda-dependent president of the century. Then we passed the 22nd Amendment limiting presidential terms, even if we really like the guy. Go figure.

Since then, we have fought all over the world but only had one more war. We've had one president felled by criminals and one who was a criminal. (Maybe two, but we weren't interested, since it had already been done) One president lost an election because of uncertainty regarding what his lips had done. One of our more recent leaders even did a respectable job but people became dissatisfied with him because their TV's whispered to them that he was only letting them keep their money so that poor people couldn't have it!

We launched a "women's movement" that required ladies to take off their brassieres and then run about screaming that guys were gawking at their breasts. A "peace movement" appeared, responsible for more riots than general admission Who concerts. A "worker's movement" erupted, wherein people went on strike, which is like...not working. Various other political movements further ensured that nothing political ever moved. As fewer of us could agree on what we thought about all this, let alone what to do about it, a seemingly endless parade of beatniks, hippies, yuppies, puppies, rappers, rapists, rock stars, victims, leaders, pundits, junkies, prophets, pedophiles, anchormen, beauty queens, born-agains and bums clambered over one another for our attention and our approval. Those Americans remaining sane through all this were sufficiently distracted that we scarcely noticed as the barbarians at our gates matured. They then mated with the sanctimonious intellectuals and fundamentalist blowhards that we never invite to parties. This unholy union produced the contemporary breed of bureaucrat/legislator/judges who now rifle through our pockets with such regularity, it hardly tickles anymore.
Now we find ourselves in a country in which we win a battle with the Edu-crats over school policy, only to find that the Legi-crats are stealing our land. We turn back an assault by the Socio-crats on our rights to self-defense while the Busni-crats throttle domestic commerce. All the while, efforts to turn back the tide of erosion against our freedoms are undermined by the timid and ignorant trading their votes and rights for more government "security" while the long arm of the law becomes just one big manicured finger.

Considering the enormity and complexity of the problem, I have concluded that a president can do nothing to return us to the ideals generated by our forebears. Therefore, I do not want the job, thank you. However, I would submit that the collective power of the people, manifest in our framing document, The Constitution, retains the power necessary to stem the tide and ignite an American Renaissance. To be effective, however, two things would have to happen.

First, politicians, judges and anyone else subject to oath-taking on the Constitution would have to hold the highest regard for the sanctity of their covenant. Treating transgressions of their oaths as acts of treason punishable by public execution might be an effective incentive here. If carried on local PBS channels during pledge drives, public broadcasting would be flush for decades.

Second, a clarification needs to commence, wherein we could repeal superfluous, inane, outdated or destructive additions to the original document, reforming obsolete or obscure language in order to make the intent and effect of the whole understandable for the next century. Since this is my idea, and I turned down the whole president thing, allow me the opportunity to suggest how this redefinition might unfold. I am doing this with my kids in mind, so you can trust me. Here we go.

We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a union which makes more sense than the oozing mess we've made in the last half-century, re-establish justice, aspire to domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the GENERAL Welfare, but not your individual welfare, since that's your job, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and everybody else after we are dead, do put into effect and recognize as law this Constitution of the United States of America. And we really mean it this time.

Articles I-VII, all sections:
Having read through the original articles of the Constitution, finding them to be both wise and wholly ignored by the politipaths we have let slobber on them for their own benefit in the past, all articles are to be considered Federal Law and enforced as such. An addition to Article II, somewhere between sections 3 and 4 shall establish as unlawful the act of Executive Order. All such previous orders will become available to the people, on display in the Library of Congress. Figuring out how to implement the forgotten articles and dispersing the riots following the release of the aforementioned Executive Orders will fall to the House of Representatives. This should build some character in the bastards.

Amendment One:
Congress will make no law telling people what to believe, who God is, what God wants or behave in any way that restricts people thinking about it for themselves. Congress may not restrict what people say, no matter how stupid or ignorant it may be, or what the press can say about it, even if they are wrong. Citizens may visit with anyone they wish, in any number, so long as they do not make a mess or start a fight. If they all want to tell Congress to go suck an egg, well, that's just fine.

Amendment Two:
Since the world is full of bullies, some of whom have guns, and the government is not above falling into this category, American citizens have right to own and carry guns if they like. If anyone goes and does something stupid with one though, other citizens have the right to shoot them with their gun and give it someone more responsible.

Amendment Three:
As long as the country is not at war, the government may not use private property for military purposes. If one of our soldiers needs a place to stay or a sandwich, he/she can just ask and most folks will oblige. We are all on the same side here.

Amendment Four:
Since your stuff is your stuff and your home your castle, nobody from any government agency can take or look at your things without your permission. The only way we, (hereafter referred to as The People), allow this is if the government has a really good reason that a judge will believe. This must include what the government thinks you are doing, what they want to look for, and where they are going to look for it. In that case, the judge will give them a permission slip that you can see first.

Amendment Five:
No American has to answer to a crime, except when a Grand Jury agrees they're in really big trouble, unless they are in the military, in which case, they should have known better, after all the money we spent training them; nor is anybody going to be tried twice for the same offense or be required to say things which make them look like a criminal, even if it's the truth. No one will be executed, jailed or have their stuff taken away without a fair trial, and if we, (you know, The People), do take anybody's stuff, we have to pay a decent price for it.

Amendment Six:
Any person accused of a crime gets to have a trial as soon as we can pencil it in. Their trial will be public and judged by a jury of people who are not taking the whole thing personally, for one reason or another, and who live right around where the defendant does. The accused person has to be told exactly what we think they did, be able to confront anybody who says they did it, and make those people show up to say so, even if they have other things to do. Other people who might be able to help the accused person have to show up too. Since the whole thing can get a little complicated, he/she can always bring a lawyer, if they want. Heck, we'll even pay for it, if we have to.

Amendment Seven:
In a case where no law is broken, but you get your panties in a knot over something stupid someone's done costing you more than a hundred bucks, (It used to be twenty, but what with inflation and all...), you can sue them in front of a jury. Nothing that the jury decides can be decided again in another court, except according to the local rules for suing people. Having said rules explained to you for two hundred dollars an hour will give you some idea as to why lawyers have so few friends except for other lawyers.

Amendment Eight:
Bail will not be set so high that only mega-celebrities and other rich guys get to walk before trial. Fines also have to be set at a level where there is a chance of paying them. Further, we don't beat people, realign their anatomy, or do any other weird things to them as punishment for crimes.

Amendment Nine:
Just because we spelled a few things out here as rights, it doesn't mean that we don't allow or don't like anything else reasonable people can do or say that we didn't mention.

Amendment Ten:
Any government power we haven't talked about here, or that we didn't come right out and say States can't do, are reserved to the States, or the People, which, I hope you all remember, is supposed to be the same thing.

All of the above were what the wise guys who started this American thing thought we needed to have to make a go of it, pretty much forever. They are what became known as the Bill of Rights and they worked pretty well on their own for a long time. Although the founders did allow for changes to be made now and then, they made the process such a pain in our collective backside that frivolous or silly things would hopefully be weeded out before mucking things up. In fact, nobody really thought seriously about adding anything until 1794, when the third Congress proposed the Eleventh Amendment, which was a pretty good idea, but got the ball rolling toward the current mess of twenty-seven amendments of which we currently try to make sense. Many of these later additions are merely legislative flotsam which we must bring on board, examine, and either sink forever, or safely bring to shore and show off. Following is a brief summary of these, whether and why we keep them. Again, you can trust me here. I'm a reasonably smart guy who is doing this for his kids, and I wouldn't do anything which is going to make us all look stupid two hundred years from now.

Amendment Eleven:
The Federal judiciary may not go sticking it's big nose into any lawsuits against individual states.
We keep this one. It's hard enough getting legal satisfaction against a state government for the occasional Stupid Government Trick without Uncle Sam throwing a bunch of their stuffed suits into the mix. It really isn't any of their business anyway, unless they are at fault, in which case they can be named in the lawsuit.

Amendment Twelve: Deals with the way we choose the President and Vice-President. The original text is still quite adequate here, even if it isn't very amusing.
Some of this amendment was later altered by the twentieth amendment, which we shall summarily ignore for now, since all it does is complicate the issue of terms when viewed in the context of the original concept of our government, where the President is just an executive and not a shah or the owner of Microsoft, or something really important.

Amendment Thirteen:
No one gets to own anyone else.
Contrary to popular belief, many of our founders were opposed to slavery from the beginning, but yielded on including abolition as one of the original "inclusive amendments" in order to have the Constitution ratified by all thirteen states, some of whose representatives were not as "enlightened" by their times as we have been led to believe. Needless to say, we keep this one and shouldn't have taken so long figuring it out. Thanks, Abe.

Amendment Fourteen:
States cannot restrict rights somebody already has as a U.S. Citizen.
This probably could have gone without saying, but since it is here and makes sense, we'll keep it. However, it also contains subsections worth mentioning separately, as there are a few minor alterations necessary to bring them up to speed.
Section 2- Delete all use of the word "male" preceding "inhabitant" or "citizen" and we probably ought to discuss whether or not Indians are actually taxed and therefore exempt from representation.
Section 4- It would be wise, at this point, to begin to question the validity
of the public debt of the U.S.. Maybe it's just me.

Amendment Fifteen:
All citizens of the U.S. get to vote, regardless of their current or past race or color.
Or anything else, for that matter, so long as they aren't in prison or ignorant. Yes, I know it sounds mean, but we need to pass legislation related to this amendment which would prohibit ignorant people from voting before they at least read a book, or something.

Amendment Sixteen: REPEAL
This amendment allowed the federal government to confiscate ridiculous amounts of money that it did not generate in order to redistribute it to people who did not earn it, who then vote for those that give it away. From now on, the Feds must get by on a ten percent national sales tax, tariffs, fees for federal services and whatever their lawyers and publicists might like to kick in. Donations are always welcome. For those of you screaming "What about the poor" we have transferred about five TRILLION dollars of New Society/Great Deal handouts, which is roughly the same amount as the current national debt, and yet, the percentage of people living in poverty in the U.S. is the same as it was when we started. I don't think that worked very well. While you people are figuring out what the hell to do about it, the rest of us are going to save for our families and I’ll give some of what used to get taken away from me to my Unitarian church, which does a pretty good job of helping the poor. There’s symmetry to it all, somehow.

Amendment Seventeen: REPEAL
Seventeen made the election of senators a function of popular vote. Bad idea. The Senate, being a supposedly more deliberative body, must be informed, subject to reasonable oversight, and be representative of the states and those states' House members. The election of senators is therefore the responsibility of the House. This is also a less expensive method, saving us from having to pay for the privilege of listening to the self-important wretches whine and kvetch at us every election cycle.

Amendment Eighteen: REPEALED
The prohibition of liquor was a perfect example of just how much can go terribly wrong when government gets on a high horse and does something for our own good. Now, don't get me wrong, drinking can lead to a host of personal and societal problems, but then so can stone-cold sober stupidity and I don't believe we can legislate against that with any certainty of compliance either.

Amendment Nineteen:
Girls can vote too.
No one in their right mind would suggest touching this one with a ten-foot flaming brassiere, so be aware of the fact that God wanted ladies to vote, or he'd never have created school boards, independent tickets, and JFK.

Amendment Twenty:
The President and Vice President begin their terms on Jan. 20 and Senators & representatives on Jan. 3.
Originally, I was going to repeal this one, because it seems silly that grownups can't get to work on time without a Constitutional amendment, but if it keeps us from arguing about it, well, I guess we can live with it. The subsections of this amendment deal with the responsibilities of Congress in picking new leaders if the Big Cheeses turn out to be illegal aliens or get their tickets punched to the great White House in the Sky before they've passed the baton, so to speak. Personally, I'd put Larry Miller in charge until the next election, but if we have chosen our representatives well, they should be able to send in a decent second-stringer.

Amendment Twenty-One:
O.K., we must've been stoned, or something. Forget Amendment Eighteen. What? We already did that? Oooh. We forgot. Anybody got a tylenol?
Seriously, we passed an amendment to un-pass another amendment. Couldn't we have just said we were kidding and borrowed an eraser?

Amendment Twenty-Two:
Nobody gets to be Prez for longer than two four-year terms, including if they were only there the first time because the last guy skipped town, and no one gets the Big Chair more than once.
After all, other people might like a turn, too.

Amendment Twenty-Three: REPEAL
Giving the District of Columbia a vote in Presidential elections was a silly idea. It's not like it's a real state, or for that matter, even a real place. Next thing you know, they'll want to give a vote to Hollywood, and then Boulder, and then Martha's Vineyard; God only knows where it will end if we don't stop the madness.

Amendment Twenty-Four:
Everyone who reads a book now and then gets to vote, even if they haven't paid their taxes, including poll taxes, which are dirty pool and therefore shall be left up to the labor unions.
This was a really good idea and keeps the government from blackmailing us for tax money by withholding our most basic right until we ante up.

Amendment Twenty-Five:
If the President can't hack the job for any reason, dies or gets canned, the vice President gets the job, which is why he was hired and is kind of a no-brainer here. The President must keep the veep seat warm with somebody qualified to run things in case the Prez takes a powder. If the President needs to step out for a while, he has to at least send a nice card to Congress and let them know what the hell's going on. If the VP and three quarters of congress determine that the Big Guy (or could happen) is a nut, or acts like they've been sniffing Sterno in the Rose Garden, they can move him to a smaller room and run things either until he's better, or until we all pick a new quarterback.
There are lengthy subsections in the original copy of this amendment, but this pretty well sums it up. It is amazing how many words we seem to need to argue over, the later in our history we travel through the amendment process. I think that by 1967, when this little nugget passed, our self-professed Alpha-males of legislation were working by the hour.

Amendment Twenty-Six: REPEAL
Voting privileges are not a function of age, sex, religion, national origin, or even species, for that matter, so long as you are literate and informed on the issues and candidates. Therefore, the only requisite to vote, beyond proof of citizenship, is that you check out a book once in a while at the library where you will no longer have to go to get all those income tax forms.
Limiting voting by age is arbitrary and completely ignores the salient issue underlying why it is so difficult to do a coherent job of electing people and passing initiatives: ignorant people pulling levers for stuff they can't read. Once we get the government out of the education business put that new "off" chip in all the TV's, this problem should become more manageable.

Amendment Twenty-Seven: REPEAL
Allowing a bunch of lawyers to effect their own pay increases under any circumstance is just stupid. From now on, you people up there get forty thousand dollars a year, indexed to inflation, plus expenses, room and board. If the money means that much more to you than the service, then maybe you'd better start sending out some resumes. (Use your own copier, though, and if you need a few stamps, ask that Rostenkowski guy).
Yes, I know the argument that "If you want qualified people, you have to pay them what they can make in the private sector." Horseshit. Many of these folks never had a real job, so how the hell would they know what they could make? Besides, even if things slow down for awhile, I'd rather have a bunch of mechanics, teachers, secretaries, and soldiers serving their country, and then going back to their lives, than a gaggle of self-impressed, overpaid bureaucratic page-turners serving themselves, then retiring on our nickel and thumbing their non-inhaling noses at us. So there.

Now, by this time some of you may have begun to wonder about a few loose ends not covered directly by this Constitution. Items such as state laws, water rights, environmental laws, medical oversight, foreign policy and the like would take a few meetings in order to hammer out the rules. Nevertheless, they don't belong in the framing document and if we can all behave like grownups, we'll work through these a few at a time. I have to go put the kids to bed, but you all are welcome to chew on this for a bit and get back to me. I will have to find a way of telling my little girl that I can't be president, but I think she'll understand when I let her know that I am practicing to be a Founding Father. She trusts me with the Dad thing, and as much as I love my nation, that is a much bigger and more important job to she and God and I. That buck stops here. Good night, honey.


  1. Well said! Thank you for your post. Please reconsider running for president. At least let us put you in charge of making the president and congress actually read the Constitution.

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  3. Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah! I am pelting you with blue bonnets and twangy praise. Wonderful!