14th Amendment

A Worthless Piece of Paper

If our rights come from the government, not within, then they are not rights, but permission slips.


President George W. Bush was fond of saying that "9/11 changed everything." He used that one-liner often as a purported moral basis to justify the radical restructuring of federal law and the federal assault on personal liberties over which he presided. He cast aside his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution; he rejected his oath to enforce all federal laws faithfully; and he moved the government decidedly in the direction of secret laws, secret procedures, and secret courts.

During his presidency, Congress enacted the Patriot Act. This legislation permits federal agents to write their own search warrants when those warrants are served on custodians of records—like doctors, lawyers, telecoms, computer servers, banks, and even the Post Office.

Such purported statutory authority directly violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy in our "persons, houses, papers, and effects." That includes just about everything held by the custodians of our records. Privacy is not only a constitutional right protected by the document; it is also a natural right. We possess the right to privacy by virtue of our humanity. Our rights come from within us—whether you believe we are the highest progression of biological forces or the intended creations of an Almighty God—they do not come from the government.

This is not an academic argument. If our rights come from within us, the government cannot take them away, whether by executive fiat, popular legislation, or judicial ruling, unless we individually have waived them. If our rights come from the government, then they are not rights, but permission slips.

The terms of the Patriot Act were made public, and those of us who follow the government's misdeeds could report on them. After all, this is America. We are a democracy. The government is supposed to work for us. We have the right to know what it is doing in our names as it is doing it, and we have the right to reveal what the government does. Yet, under this law, the feds punished many efforts at revelation. That's because the Patriot Act prohibits those who receive these agent-written search warrants from telling anyone about them. This violates our constitutionally protected and natural right to free speech. All of this has been publicly known since 2001.

Then, in June 2013, Edward Snowden, the uber-courageous former CIA and NSA official, dropped a still smoldering bombshell of truth upon us when he revealed that the Bush administration had dispatched the NSA to spy on all Americans all the time and the Obama administration had attempted to make the spying appear legal by asking judges to authorize it.

Snowden went on to reveal that the NSA, pursuant to President Obama's orders and the authorization of these judges meeting in secret (so secret that the judges themselves are not permitted to keep records of their own rulings), was actually capturing and storing the content of all emails, text messages, telephone calls, utility and credit card bills, and bank statements of everyone in America. They did this without a search warrant based on probable cause—a very high level of individualized suspicion—as required by the Constitution.

Snowden revealed that Obama's lawyers had persuaded these secret judges, without any opposition from lawyers representing the victims of this surveillance, that somehow Congress had authorized this and somehow it was constitutional and somehow it was not un-American to spy on all of us all the time. These judges actually did the unthinkable: They issued what are known as general warrants. General warrants were used against the colonists by the British and are expressly prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. They permit the bearer to search wherever he wishes and seize whatever he finds. That's what the NSA does to all of us today.

Last week, we learned how deep the disrespect for the Constitution runs in the government and how tortured is the logic that underlies it. In a little-noted speech at Washington and Lee Law School, Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of both the CIA and the NSA, told us. In a remarkable public confession, he revealed that somehow he received from some source he did not name the authority to reinterpret the Fourth Amendment's protection of privacy so as to obliterate it. He argued that the line between privacy and unbridled government surveillance is a flexible and movable one, and that he—as the head of the NSA—could move it.

This is an astounding audacity by a former high-ranking government official who swore numerous times to uphold the Constitution. He has claimed powers for himself that are nowhere in the Constitution or federal statues, powers that no president or Congress has claimed, powers that no Supreme Court decision has articulated, powers that are antithetical to the plain meaning and supremacy of the Constitution, powers that any non-secret judge anywhere would deny him.

If the terms and meaning of the Constitution could be changed by the secret whims of those in the executive branch into whose hands they have been reposed for safekeeping, of what value are they? No value. In such a world, our Constitution has become a worthless piece of paper.

NEXT: U.S. Makes Another Awful Decision to Harm Somalis

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  1. This is a wonderful essay summarizing the significance of the erosion of personal liberties and privacy over last two administrations, and resonates strongly with me.

    We’re selling our very real freedoms for the illusion of security, and in so doing are allowing the government to undermine the very fabric of American ideals.

    1. Past TWO administrations Get real. The rampant rot goes back,at least to Woodrow Wilson, the racist Progressive saint.

      1. Ima go with “back to Adams”, cause – even though I like him, for some reason – he was a fucking tyrant. See “Alien and Sedition Acts”.

        This country was fucked right out the gate. Brilliant effort, for a pretty long time.

        But I’ve decided people just suck and will always devolve to tyranny. Last two admins? Yeah – last “every one except Washington – I think he mostly got it right”.

        But that’s, like, just my opinion. I could be wrong.

        1. Brutal truth

          1. The Judge agrees that it goes back to Adams and his Federalist Party as well.

            The Anti-Federalists argued that the Constitution represented a betrayal of the the DoI’s Preamble. They were proven right very shortly afterwords. If a national government does not care to honor a written Bill of Rights, it is powerful enough to ignore it.

        2. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain ? that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

          The ostensible supporters of the Constitution, like the ostensible supporters of most other governments, are made up of three classes, viz.:
          1. Knaves, a numerous and active class, who see in the government an instrument which they can use for their own aggrandizement or wealth.

          2. Dupes?a large class, no doubt?each of whom, because he is allowed one voice out of millions in deciding what he may do with his own person and his own property, and because he is permitted to have the same voice in robbing, enslaving, and murdering others, that others have in robbing, enslaving, and murdering himself, is stupid enough to imagine that he is a “free man,” a “sovereign”; that this is “a free government”; “a government of equal rights,” “the best government on earth,” and such like absurdities.

          3. A class who have some appreciation of the evils of government, but either do not see how to get rid of them, or do not choose to so far sacrifice their private interests as to give themselves seriously and earnestly to the work of making a change.

        3. Yeah – last “every one except Washington – I think he mostly got it right”.

          He still has the stain of the Whiskey Rebllion (or excise taxes in general) for his legacy.

          And his treatment of Tom Paine when Paine was imprisoned in France–on death row from which he luckily escaped–made me think less of Washington. It was likely due to wanting to severe ties because of Paine’s Age of Reason essay which had become very unpopular at the time.

          1. Washington is the only President I’m willing to cut some slack for, since I don’t believe he actually wanted to be President, and he did set the example of retiring voluntarily instead of hanging on as long as possible. But that slack doesn’t extend to thinking he was perfect.

            Adams, geez, what a turd. Whining about how to address His Majesty The President, and how any founding father could think the Alien and Sedition Acts were in any way compatible with the proclaimed ideals or even the text of the Constitition … what a turd.

            1. Well, at least he actually took the Free Exercise clause for its true meaning, saying Muslims had every right to practice their religion in the US.

              Meanwhile, Adams had high praise for Paine. “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”

              1. John Adams was no admirer of Paine. Consider Adam’s memoir from the 1800s regarding Paine:

                It has been a general Opinion, that this Pamphlet was of great Importance in the Revolution. I doubted it at the time and have doubted it to this day. It probably converted some to the Doctrine of Independence, and gave others an Excuse for declaring in favour of it. But these would all have followed Congress with Zeal: and on the other hand it excited many Writers against it, particularly
                Plain Truth, who contributed very largely to fortify and inflame the Party against Independence, and finally lost us the Allens, Penns, and many other Persons of Weight in the Community.


                [Paine’s] Arguments from the Old Testament were ridiculous, but whether they proceeded from honest Ignorance and or foolish Superstition on one hand, or from willful Sophistry and knavish Hypocrisy on the other, I know not. The other third part, relative to a form of Government, I considered as flowing from simple Ignorance …

                In the same writing, Adams notes that he wrote Thoughts on Government in April 1776 to refute Paine, not to support him.

                These quotations are well-documented at http://www.masshist.org/digita…..?id=A1_23.

                They conflict directly with the high-praise quote. I think it is either apocryphal or, perhaps, a politician’s sop to his audience.

            2. I’m also willing to cut him some slack since he was offered to be made a king and declined. I can’t really see any recent president declining that kind of power. Hell, they’ve already pretty much usurped all the same powers, the only difference is the illusion of democracy and a 2 term limit. If the 22nd ammendment ever gets overturned you can kiss that goodbye though.

        4. William Henry Harrison did a fine job as President and I commend him for a job well done.

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  2. File this one under “No shit, Sherlock”.

    1. Isn’t that folder for the scene where the NHS nurse tells Holmes he’s just constipated?

      1. It’s enemantary, my dear Watson.

          1. Welll….shit!

      2. And Holmes tells the NHS nurse he’ll just work it out with a pencil?

      3. Nurse: “Perhaps some Pepsi would help things along?”

        Holmes: “No Pepsi. Coke.”

    2. How was this guy an actual judge? Not that I disagree with anything he says here, but this tone of outrage and astonishment seems both naive and disingenuous.

      I was an attorney for several years and coming out of law school I actually believed in precedent, the rule of law, fealty to the founding documents and such.

      It took me precisely about a week of exposure to the actual practice of law to be thoroughly disabused of all those silly notions.

      I quickly learned:
      1) judges are by and large shitty partisan politicians who
      2) will merely effectuate whatever outcome they want – regardless of any quaint notions like statutory or common law.

      You can construct a semi-coherent legal argument to support any horseshit position. That is what they do and how they do. End of.

      1. Precedence and fealty to founding documents are often at odds.

      2. OT but related: Yesterday my wife went to the magistrate’s office to appeal a speeding ticket (with points) that she received. Ticketed for 40MPH in a 25MPH. She just hoped to have the points removed.

        So she’s in a room with a bunch of smelly degenerate lowlifes. Her case is heard and she claims to have been traveling at a slower speed than ticked. The magistrate dismisses her argument then engages in a non-relevant discussion about my wife’s profession. Realizing that she is an intelligent person of apparent good moral standing, much better than the crowd of people waiting to have their cases heard he declares ‘You have a glow about you.’ and goes on to tell her that she is the recipient of his charitable act for the day – the infraction reduced to 30MPH in a 25MPH and no points.

        I congratulated her on coming out on the good side of the arbitrary use of the judge’s discretion.

        1. So basically the judge decided your wife qualified as a petty noble and therefore is allowed to speed, unlike the peasantry.

        2. He was just hitting on her. He was probably hoping for a thank you blowjob.

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    1. Did the officers go home safely? Because that’s what matters.

  4. In evaluating whether anyone in the federal government believes that the Constitution is the foundational law that grants the government it’s powers, it is instructive to note the questions that are asked at the Supreme Court’s oral arguments.

    Many of the questions are of the “if we rule this way, what would the consequences be?” sort. This is a strong signal that nobody is following the law as written. They are all making policy decisions as to what they believe the “right” outcome to be. Then they are twisting words in order to back into the ruling that they would like.

    If the Supreme Court were truly following the law as they pretend to, there would be no questions at all about “what would the result be” if we struck down x,y or z law. The questions would all be about previous interpretations of the laws, and which other laws might be applicable to the question at hand. And there would not be 5-4 votes breaking down on ideological lines. Strong disagreements would still arise, but they would be over things like “what does regulating interstate commerce mean?” and “what does the 14th amendment mean for the power of the states to pass laws that exceed the authority of the US constitution?”

    1. This gets back to my favorite scheme, or one of them, that just as all criminal verdicts must be unanimous, so should all appeals court rulings; and laws which can’t pass unanimous appeal should be voided in their entirety because if judges can’t agree on what laws mean, then ordinary people are far more unlikely to understand them, and the legislature needs to go back to the drawing board.

      1. I like your idea of 100% agreement as long as if when they can’t agree on a law then the law is invalid and unenforceable instead of as in many cases a law in question is allowed to continue until it is changed or overruled or with the use of a stay.

        1. Absolutely; any law lacking unanimous confirmation is voided entirely, immediately, and everyone convicted on it or pending trial on it is released. If a law is not understandable even to highly educated judges, it is immoral to hold ordinary people up to a higher standard. Doesn’t matter if appeals later overturn the ruling — if any panel of judges disagree as to its meaning, it is too inconsistent to be worthy of enforcement under any circumstances.

          Of course, this would make judges reluctant to disagree or find fault with any law, but it would still be better than the judge-made law we have now.

  5. Funny to me that Snowden gets accused of Treason – but not all people like the General who casually break their oaths and wipe their assess with the Constitution.

    1. Look, do you want the terrorists to win? Don’t you care about the children? The constitution is not a suicide pact!!11!!!

      1. Judging from America’s history since the Constitution was adopted, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to call it a suicide pact?

      2. The constitution is not a suicide pact!!11!!!

        No, of course not – “it’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

    2. He is a traitor in the hearts and minds of anyone who is thinking. It’s enough to know he is old and going to die a slow death soon as his body rots out from under him, i only pray he gets some horrible disease that makes it as painful as possible.

      1. I’m sure the devil has already picked out his place setting. Probably about 6 seats down from a certain Bavarian gentlemen

        1. Franz Klammer?

        2. Bob Marley?

          1. Albrecht Durer?

      2. It’s enough to know he is old and going to die a slow death soon as his body rots out from under him

        “I just wanna say I really hope [Michael Heyden]fucking get[s] Lou Gehrig’s disease.”

  6. A worthless piece of paper? Brian Williams’ resumee?

    1. i want to see a brian williams resume outlining all the pictures his face is now photoshopped in

      1. He’ll get to that once he’s done perfecting the cure for cancer.

      2. There I was, on an episode of HBO’s Girls performing analingus on an actress whose face I recognized as familiar.
        – Creepy Brian Williams (cue St. Elmo’s Fire music as per the Rob Lowe Direct TV ads)

        1. *golf clap*

  7. It’s better that this stuff is open. Insidiously clever tyrants will go out of their way to cloak their seizure of power and their rule with the illusion of the republic. Fortunately, our tyrant wannabes don’t realize that they’re not just carving up a document and system that limits their power, they’re also chipping away the foundation of their legitimacy. If they’re viewed as illegitimate, holding power over people will be a lot harder.

    This is true even with the diluted republic we have today, and these idiots are taking an awful gamble that Americans won’t have a point where the screwing isn’t fun for them anymore.

    1. I never consented to being screwed, help help rape!

      1. Exactly. What slimy politician with aspirations of absolute rule wants a bunch of people bitching about things? Better to lull them into thankfulness for the toilet paper they waited in line to receive from the government.

      2. Yes you did! It’s right there in the small print of that “social contract” you signed!

  8. Considering we have had to amend it 27 times and still fuck it up, then yeah, it is kinda worthless.

    The 13th amendment is also quite the stain on the Constitution.

    1. Oh fuck, 16th*

      1. In a noted libertarian magazine, libertarians pine for return to slavery.

        1. If its negotiated through contract i have no problem with someone selling themselves into slavery

            1. Yes massah!! I understands my rights is whatever massah says they is! Yes SAH! Yes SAH!!

              *hobbles off due to one foot having been cut off*

              1. Just so long as you are paid up on the Obamassahia’s ACA breathing tax.

          1. If its negotiated through contract i have no problem with someone selling themselves into slavery

            That’s some mediocre trolling, sir.

            1. yeah i know lol i was seein what kinda reaction id get

              1. But seriously who will polish my monocle and sweep my factory floors, surely you dont expect me to pay children, i mean think of the children!!! slavery is much better 😉

          2. How does a slave enforce the terms of the contract? Real slavery means owners can prevent slaves from going to court or hiring a lawyer.

            1. ‘Taint slavery if it’s voluntary servitude.

            2. ‘Taint slavery if it’s voluntary servitude.

        2. Ha, no, don’t be silly.

          *quickly shoos his orphan slaves back into the dungeon*

  9. “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.” -Lysander Spooner

    1. Wow! Ram Jam is jsut not gonna like that one bit!


      1. Ram Jam isn’t going to like that you SFed the link one bit!

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  11. The Constitution always was a worthless piece of paper.

  12. In such a world, our Constitution has become a worthless piece of paper.

    That’s what the progtards have wanted for decades. Looks like they finally got their wish, and now the rest of us are going to get the government they deserve, good and hard.

  13. Our government may be overstepping, more like stepping all over the constitution, but at least the constitution gives us the right and ability to stop these abuses if chose to actually act upon them. But in reality we won’t hence the continued degradation of our rights until we can’t act. Maybe at that point we will but once an overwhelming majority of people become dependent on the system then they are less likely to act against the system which is why the government always seeks greater dependance.

    1. It just means what the man pointing the gun at you thinks that it means.

  14. “…powers that any non-secret judge anywhere would deny him.”

    I wouldn’t bet on that.

  15. We get the government that the mass of the people deserve. If the mass can be woken up to scream bloody murder about the NSA, TSA etc., then the Constitution is there to back up their outrage. However, if they prefer to keep on napping, or cheering for “team X”, or are willing to “do anything to keep safe”, then the above goons will continue to tramp on them.

    The Constitution is a piece of paper. It does not have arms and legs.

  16. This is not an academic argument.

    That’s an understatement.

    1. Funny thing is, pieces of shit like you were all against government having these powers under Bush.

      1. I can’t speak for anyone else, but my views on NSA spying and such are complicated. But natural rights babytalk makes for a rather impotent argument against government abuses.

        1. Said baby talk is the basis of and embedded in the constitution, asshole. The modern liberal democracies do not exist without it.

          Conversely, without Marx, we wouldn’t have had Soviet Russia, North Korea, Venezuela, or modern progressives.

          There’s nothing complicated about NSA spying. Nor would you have called it complicated pre-2008. It would have been clear cut condemnation from people of your ilk.

          1. To make it clear, that baby talk in the constitution explicitly forbids what the NSA is doing. And that is ALL that matters. Because that’s the whole fucking point of a constitution. It’s not there as a set of guidelines the government can pick and choose to follow when it’s convenient. But assholes like you don’t get that and try to make the issue sound nuanced by sitting on a fence because your political heroes in the State support it.

        2. I’m glad that you’ve given up on your own rights along with everyone else’s…

          So, when the 51% vote to take all your stuff, your family, friends, your health, you will gladly lay it all down.


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  18. Like, its really old, Dude.

    “What difference, at this point, does it matter?” -H Clinton

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  21. Keep up the good work judge. The people are not sufficiently outraged yet and I can’t understand it.

  22. We swapped the bill of rights for a bill of privileges long ago.

  23. Well, I’ve gotten used to the idea. The Constitution is an anachronism. It was probably never taken very seriously, and has probably never really been in effect as the law of the land. The US is not a democracy, and it’s not a free market capitalism kind of thing, either. You do not have anything vaguely related to rights… and the more you think you do, the more disappointed and outraged you’re gonna be when you find out.

    1. Oh, you still have rights – they just aren’t respected by the criminals who run things. And of course the US is not a democracy; that’s because the constitution established a republic instead.

  24. I’ve been saying for years that the concept of inalienable rights is a myth (due to the so-called war on drugs) and that we no longer have rights. We only have privileges granted to us by the government. That is, in America you are free to do what ever the government allows you to do. http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com/

    1. No, the rights are still there. They’re just being infringed upon and suppressed by an increasingly tyrannical government.

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