Posts tagged ‘Bill of Rights’

12/24/2014

Constitution of U.S. in 1750 Words or Less

The U.S. Constitution created a House and Senate. (1-1-1) House terms are for two-years. (1-2-1) House members are directly elected by the people. (1-2-1) Representatives must be at least 25 and citizens for at least seven years. (1-2-2) House seats are apportioned equally based on a census taken every 10 years. (1-2-3) Washington DC receives one House seat. (A-23) Vacancies are filled by elections called by state executives. (1-2-4)

Senate terms are for six years. (1-3-1) Senators, initially chosen by state legislatures, are also directly elected. (A-17) Senators must be at least 30 and citizens for at least nine years. (1-3-3) Each state is entitled to two Senators, regardless of population. (1-3-1) Senators are divided into three classes; one-third are elected every two years. (1-3-2) The Vice-President serves as the President of the Senate (1-3-4)

The time, place and manner of elections is determined by Congress. (1-4-1) Citizens 18 years of age may vote. (A-26) Those born in the U.S. or naturalized are citizens. (A-14) Congress may write rules for naturalization. (1-8-4) No one may be denied the right to vote due to race or sex. (A-15, A-19) No poll taxes are permitted. (A-24)

No member of Congress may be subjected to a religious test. (6-3) Members are compensated. (6-1) Pay changes cannot become effective until after the next election. (A-27) The House and Senate determine if those elected met the qualifications for office (1-5-1) Members may not simultaneously retain other offices. (1-6-2) They cannot accept gifts or titles of nobility from foreign states. (1-9-8) Senators and representatives may be disciplined for disorderly behavior and expelled if two-thirds agree. (1-5-2)

Congress convenes on Jan. 3 and is in session at least once a year. (1-4-2) A majority constitutes a quorum. (1-5-1) While in session, neither body may adjourn for more than three days. (1-5-4) Members may not be questioned about their House or Senate speeches or debates. (6-1) They are privileged from arrest. (6-1) A journal records all proceedings and votes. (1-5-3) The Vice-President votes only to break a tie in the Senate. (1-3-4)

The President must be a natural-born citizen. (2-1-5) He must be at least 35. (2-1-5) Each state receives Electoral College electors equal to their number of representatives and Senators. (2-1-2) Elections are held on the same date in every state. (2-1-4) A majority of electors choses the President. (2-1-3) If no candidate receives a majority, the House elects the President. (2-1-3)

The Presidential oath of office, written into the Constitution by the Founders, makes no reference to god. (2-1-8) The President may not be subjected to a religious test. (6-3) The President is entitled to compensation. (2-1-7) He is elected to a four-year term that begins on Jan. 20 (2-1-1). He can serve no more than two terms. (A-22) If he already served more than two years of another’s term, he is limited to one term. (A-22)

The President defends the Constitution. (2-3) He is Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy. (2-2-1) He may use the militia to suppress insurrections and enforce the laws of the union. (1-8-15) He appoints ambassadors, officers, and Supreme Court Justices. (2-2-2) He fills vacancies, including Vice-President. (2-2-3) He may grant pardons. (2-2-1) He gives a State of the Union address, which recommends legislation. (2-3) He can make treaties. (2-2-2) No state may sign treaties. (1-10-1) The President may veto bills (1-7-2)

The President may be impeached for treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors. (2-4) The crime of treason must be supported by two witnesses or a confession in open court. (3-3-1) The House has the sole power to file impeachment charges. (1-2-5) The Senate has the exclusive power to try and convict cases of impeachment. (1-3-6) The Vice-President becomes President if the President dies or is removed from office. (2-1-6)

The House and Senate have legislative powers. (1-1-1) Congress has several enumerated powers. (1-8) They may also pass laws necessary for carrying out the delegated powers. (1-8-18). They may legislate for the District of Columbia. (1-8-17) They may make rules for U.S. territories. (4-3-2) They may admit new states. (4-3-1) They may initiate constitutional amendments by a vote of two-thirds in both bodies. (5) Presidential vetoes may be overridden by a two-thirds majority in both bodies. (1-7-2) The Senate may ratify or reject treaties. (2-2-2)

All revenue bills begin in the House. (1-7-1) Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes. (1-8-1) They may use income taxes. (A-16) Direct taxes must be proportional (1-2-3) Congress, but no state, may coin money. (1-8-5, 1-10-1) They may punish counterfeiters of U.S. coins and securities. (1-8-6) They may borrow money. (1-8-2) They may pay the debt. (1-8-1) They may write uniform bankruptcy rules. (1-8-4) Money from Treasury must be appropriated. (1-9-7)

Congress may regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states (1-8-3). They cannot tax exports (1-9-5) There shall be free trade within the U.S. from state to state, without preferences or tariffs imposed on ships (1-9-6) States cannot impose tariffs on imports from abroad or exports headed overseas. (1-10-2)

Congress may promote the progress of science and useful arts by protecting inventors and authors. (1-8-8) They may build post offices and postal roads. (1-8-7) They cannot prohibit intoxicating liquors. (A-21) They may provide for the general welfare. (1-8-1)

Congress provides for a common defense. (1-8-1) They may declare war. (1-8-11) They may raise and support armies for two-year periods. (1-8-12). They may create a navy. (1-8-13) They may organize the militia to repel invasions. (1-8-15, 1-8-16) Militia members cannot be denied a right to bear arms. (A-2) They may grant letters of marque and reprisal. (1-8-11) States may not. (1-10-1) Individual states may not maintain troops. (1-10-2) Congress may erect forts, arsenals, and docks, (1-8-17) but may not quarter soldiers in homes. (A-3)

The Congress may make rules for land and sea forces. (1-8-14) They may make rules for enemies captured on land and water. (1-8-11) They may punish offenses against the Law of Nations. (1-8-10) They may punish felonies on the high seas. (1-8-10)

The Constitution created a Supreme Court. (3-1-1) Tribunals inferior to it may be created by Congress. (1-8-9) Supreme Court Justices serve for good behavior. (3-1-1) They must be compensated.

The judicial power extends to cases where the issue involves the U.S. Constitution, federal law, a treaty, an ambassador, admiralty or maritime law, where the U.S. is a party, two states sue each other, or citizens of different states are involved. (3-2-1) Federal courts cannot hear cases between a state and citizens of another. (A-11) The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction, and only a limited degree of original jurisdiction. (3-2-2)

Each state is guaranteed a Republican form of government. (4-4) States cannot grant titles of nobility. (1-10-1) They cannot enter into confederations with other states (1-10-1) They cannot enter into agreements with foreign powers or other states. (1-10-3)

Federal law is the supreme law of the land. (6-2) States reserve only those powers not delegated to the federal government, or barred by the U.S. Constitution. (A-10) States may initiate amendments to the Constitution, if two-thirds of the state legislatures agree. (5) A constitutional amendment becomes law, if three-fourths of the states ratify it. (5)

States must grant full faith and credit to the laws and judgments of the other states. (4-1) They cannot impair the obligations of contracts. (1-10-1) If they take private property for a public purpose, they must pay just compensation. (A-14) In civil cases at law, jury trials cannot be denied. (A-7) States cannot deny citizens the privileges and immunities of citizens of the other states. (4-2)

States cannot deny liberty, which encompasses many freedoms. (A-14) Liberty includes a freedom from religion, as well as the free exercise of it. (A-1, A-14) The government cannot deny free speech, or a freedom of the press. (A-1, A-14) They cannot deny a right to assemble to petition for a redress of grievances. (A-1, A-14)

The Founders made possible the abolition of the slave trade by inserting a provision that allowed it to be terminated in 1808, which is exactly what Jefferson did as soon as he could. (1-9-1) Slavery itself was ended by Lincoln’s efforts in 1865. (A-13) Persons cannot be denied the equal protection of the laws. (A-14) The enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution, does not mean others retained by the people are denied. (A-9)

Neither Congress nor any state may single out a person and convict them through a Bill of Attainder (1-9-3, 1-10-1) Neither Congress, nor any state, may change the rules of the game after the fact by passing Ex Post Facto laws. (1-9-3, 1-10-1)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. (A-4) One state may ask another to extradite an alleged fleeing felon. (4-2-2)

A person accused of a crime may not be denied liberty without the due process of law. (A-5, A-14) He is entitled to the assistance of counsel. (A-6) Writs of Habeas Corpus, which bring the accused out of a jail and before a judge, cannot be suspended, except in times of rebellion (1-9-2) While awaiting trial, the accused may not subjected to excessive bail. (A-8)

One accused of a felony must be indicted by a grand jury, or a judge must find probable cause to bind him over for trial. (A-5) He must be provided with the information that sets forth the nature of the accusation. (A-6) He is entitled to a speedy trial (A-6) He is entitled to a trial by jury. (3-2-3) The jury must be impartial. (A-6)

The trial must be held in the state where the alleged offense occurred. (3-2-3) The trial cannot be conducted in secret and must be open to the public. (A-6) The defendant cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself; in other words, he has a right to remain silent. (A-5) He has the right to confront witness against him. (A-6) He has the right to use the compulsory subpoena process to obtain witnesses for his defense. (A-6)

If a jury finds the defendant not guilty, he cannot be subjected to same offense twice (A-5) If the defendant is found guilty, he cannot be subjected to excessive fines, or exposed to cruel and unusual punishment. (A8)

11/22/2011

1st Amendment Right: Peaceful Assembly

Students at the U of California-Davis, who peaceably assembled and were seated on the ground on public property during a protest against galloping inflation as to college tuition, were needlessly pepper-sprayed in the face at point blank range by thugs wearing law enforcement uniforms, despite any resistance by the victims.

While most of us learned in grade school the First Amendment guarantees: “the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” Linda Katehi, the Greek Chancellor at UC-Davis, ordered her campus police to remove the students, while failing to remind them to respect the constitutional rights of the demonstrators. Apparently, she was never taught the values we hold dear under our Constitution, as she grew up under an authoritarian regime in Greece.

Conservatives who consider inflation one of the worst economic evils should applaud the students for complaining about the outrageous increases in student tuition in recent years. Instead, the Tea Party types, who pretend to know the U.S. Constitution, fail to understand that the Framers would clearly be on the side of the demonstrators. Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and the others, despised the British police state imposed upon them, and they guaranteed in our Constitution the right to assemble for the purpose of demanding change. Obviously, when police pepper spray protesters, the ability to redress grievances is violated.

It is time for institutions like UC-Davis to hire Chancellors who understand the Bill of Rights. We need to stop placing foreigners in such valued and important American jobs, when they apparently have little or no knowledge of how our system is supposed to operate. Our police need training to understand that protest is as American as the Declaration of Independence.

We are a nation born on the principle that individual rights are weighed more heavily than the powers of the state. Where people gather to make government aware of their grievances, those in authority must put the tools of repression aside, and should instead listen to the protesters, and then respond to their concerns in an equally non-violent manner. To use force like pepper spray against non-violent demonstrators is nothing more than a violation of the First Amendment Right to Assembly

05/31/2011

Prisons: The Wrong Place to Privatize

The U.S. Supreme Court (5-4) recently upheld a California Federal District Court ruling that ordered a reduction in the state’s prison population from 156,000 to 126,000, because the conditions were so overcrowded and bad, they violated the Eighth Amendment ban against Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

Although the California-owned prison facilities were designed to hold a maximum of 80,000 prisoners, the state system was operating at about 200% of capacity. In some situations, up to 54 prisoners shared a single toilet. Prisoners were also being denied minimal health care, as medical conditions were untreated, or ignored, and suicidal inmates were held in cage-like booths.

While conditions in California’s facilities were unnecessarily cruel, they were probably not unusual. Throughout the country, other states also have overcrowded substandard conditions.

Most lawyers would agree it is not easy to sue a state government, and it is even more difficult once state functions have been privatized. Unfortunately, the trend towards privatization has been growing. The Republican-controlled Florida legislature recently reduced the State Dept. of Corrections staff by 1,751 workers, and voted to privatize even more of their state prisons.

The worst problem with privatization is the Bill of Rights was created as a check against the conduct of the government. It was not written to control the behavior of private sector actors. Right-wing judges interpret the 8th Amendment ban against Cruel and Unusual Punishment as applicable only to the government.

If the California prison situation had been operated by private contractors, the prisoners’ case would have been much more difficult, since the defense attorneys would have argued the 8th Amendment simply did not apply.

Some government functions should never be privatized. Prisons are one of them. Anyone in the custody of the state must be treated humanely, but there is no guarantee of such treatment, once the state is not involved. States should not delegate the job of incarceration to private sector profiteers, as they would certainly cut financial corners even more than states like California.