Tag Archives: Antonin Scalia

Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

Today, December 15th 2010 is the 219th birthday of the Bill of Rights.

And while constitutional scholars — from former constitutional law professor President Barack Obama, to Supreme Court Justice Antonin “Original Intent” Scalia, to Christine “Really? Separation of Church and State is in the First Amendment? It says that? Really?” O’Donnell – may differ on their interpretations of the Bill of Rights, there is little debate that the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution (ratified by three-fourths of the states on December 15, 1791) provide Americans with freedoms and protections that have inspired the world and made American citizenship a privilege.

And that previous sentence is just about as long-winded and complex as many of the amendments in the Bill of Rights.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to free assembly, the right to petition the government for redress – and the little clause that stumped the failed Delaware Senate candidate/witch: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

The Second Amendment gives us all the right to keep and bear arms. In other words, we can all have guns, right? Now, what the amendment actually says is, “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” So I guess we must all be part of a well-regulated militia, right? Is the NRA a well-regulated militia? I know the Aryan Nation is. (So glad those boys have automatic weapons, aren’t you?)

The Third Amendment prohibits the government from quartering troops in your house without your consent. I know we’ve all dealt with this problem at one time or another — usually around the holidays. Your house is already filled with visiting relatives – and a battalion of Marine infantry shows up at your door hoping to squeeze into your guest room for the night. Thanks to the Bill of Rights, you can point them in the direction of the nearest Holiday Inn.

The Fourth Amendment provides protection from unreasonable search and seizure. Unless, of course, you are a poor young non-Caucasian male suspected of having drugs in your home, or you’re on a terrorist watch list, or your electronic mail is swept up in an elaborate intelligence gathering effort, or… (Let’s face it. After the Patriot Act, the ‘ol Fourth Amendment has taken a beating.)

The Fifth Amendment provides due process in legal proceedings and protections against double jeopardy and self-incrimination. This is another amendment that conservatives don’t like. They think it’s too soft on criminal suspects and suspected terrorists. Unless, of course, conservatives are the ones under indictment. (Which happens a lot.) Then due process is a good thing to observe.

The Sixth Amendment provides for trial by jury and enumerates the rights of the accused. But what about victims rights? I can hear Rush Limbaugh now. “Those damn bleeding-heart liberal Framers!”

The Seventh Amendment provides for civil trial by jury. It is the most boring amendment. (In fact, I feel asleep writing that last sentence.)

However, you gotta love that the Seventh Amendment actually says, “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved…”

Did I mention they ratified this thing in 1791?

The Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail and bars cruel and unusual punishment. This is another amendment that’s been taking a beating lately.

Actually, it’s been waterboarded.

The Ninth Amendment is a catchall. It protects rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution. Like the right to enjoy macaroni and cheese in church without having to share it with a soldier who is reading a naughty magazine. Stuff like that. I think.

The Tenth Amendment is another grab bag. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Read that ten times fast. C’mon, Justice Scalia. I dare you.

So, happy birthday to our poor, beleaguered, bloodied-but-still-standing Bill of Rights!

Hopefully, it can survive for another 219 years.

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Filed under History, Politics, Truth

Scalia & Sotomayor: A Judicial Tango

In May of 2009, President Obama nominated an unheralded federal appeals court judge named Sonia Sotomayor for an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, replacing retired Justice David Souter.

Soon, there was the now-obligatory pre-Senate-confirmation-hearing political dustup. The right wing questioned Sotomayor’s objectivity – pointing to the following statement…

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Before long, Sonia Sotomayor was a household name – and despite the “wise Latina” controversy, her nomination was confirmed by the Senate that August by a vote of 68–31.

But how would Sotomayor’s presence on the Supreme Court affect the court’s political balance?

And how would the court’s conservative “white males” deal with this “wise Latina woman” and “the richness of her experiences”?

Most interestingly, how would Justice Antonin Scalia react to the new woman on the bench? Pundits noted that Scalia and Sotomayor are both New Yorkers and lifelong Yankees fans. But would that common ground be all that united them?

Would Sonia help counter Scalia’s ultra-conservative power in the Supreme Court chambers? Or would Scalia draw Sotomayor to the dark side? As my wife Victoria and I began writing “The Vic & Paul” show in January 2010, we knew we had to address this supreme relationship question.

Here, then, is another musical sketch from “The Vic & Paul Show”, performed in June 2010 at Push Lounge in Woodland Hills, California.

Can love bridge the ideological gap between the Left and the Right? We take you now to the dark and shadowy chambers of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia…

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Filed under Art, Music, Politics