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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

December 15, 2008

it’s Bill of Rights Day

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 12:57 pm

.. As Blawg Review‘s righteous editor reminded us a few days ago, President Bush has declared today to be Bill of Rights Day.  You’ll find the text of the Bill of Rights — the first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution — at the foot of this posting (click more).  The Bill of Rights was ratified by Congress on December 15, 1791.

No matter how ironic it might seem that GW is celebrating the Bill of Rights, I’m happy to say that you can find tributes and reminders of our rights (and our responsibility to work to uphold those rights) across the web, and especially on lawyer weblogs.

  • For example, see Eric Turkewitz’s tribute to John Peter Zenger, who helped establish the right of freedom of the press in Britain’s American colonies. Eric’s post includes an inspiring reference to a shopping mall, Bill of Rights Plaza in Eastchester, NY.

It is no coincidence that our blawging paisan, the oft-irreverent libertarian Prof. Marc Randazza, is hosting Blawg Review #190 today at The Legal Satyricon.  Normally not fans of theme-based Blawg Reviews, the f/k/a Gang (like Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice) is grateful that Marc has focused on each of the ten Amendments, reminding us that (beyond the Biggies that get all the attention) there are several important Rights that rarely get mentioned in the media or in our everyday conversation.  Head over to Blawg Review #190 to find links to recent posting at lawyer weblogs about every one of the Amendments contained in the Bill of Rights.

Fresh from a liberating weekend, during which an ice storm prevented us access to the internet and freed up a bit of time for just lazying around our 4th-Amendment-protected home, the f/k/a Gang doesn’t feel much like heavy pundit-lifting this morning.  So, we’re merely going to praise the Founding Fathers for adding the Bill of Rights:

“in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of [the powers of the federal Government . . . and] best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

And, as we have every right to do, we’ll also try again to clear up a misconception that is far-too-prevalent about the First Amendment.  To wit, as we’ve said before:

. The mistaken invocation of the First Amendment against private action is something that every American has heard since birth. [Try living with a teenager and see how often you face such arguments.]  Those who erroneously believe that all Americans have the right to say whatever they want whenever they want come from all walks of life and all ideologies and parties.  . . .  The Bill of Rights limits Government action, not private action. It is basic ignorance of the meaning of the Bill of Rights . . and not some “lex-centric” liberal worldview that causes most Americans to decry private forms of “censorship” as unAmerican.

In the context of weblogs, Walter Olson put this right rather well last week at the new website Secular Right (via SHG):

“Let’s make it clear right now, though, that this is a moderated comments section. It may resemble a very broadminded letters-to-the-editor column; it is not going to resemble a public-access cable channel, graffiti wall, or Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner if I or DH can help it.

“What’s more, it’s moderated for the benefit of this site’s intended audience, bearing in mind that some lines of discussion more quickly become tedious and irrelevant to that audience than others. . . .

“One group we’d be better off without are those who feel that commenting on this site is somehow a matter of right, no matter what the tedium factor, and radiate wounded entitlement when they learn that’s not how it’s going to work. They really would be happier elsewhere.”

Finally, here are some favorite haiku from two Bills who never bring tedium or irrelevance to this website:

early spring
before she can tie it
the balloon escapes


in the park
my dog fetches
a better stick

werewolf movie
at the commercial
letting the dog out

prostate exam
the doctor and I
trade jabs

long day
his finger slows
the spinning globe

… by W.F. “Dr. Bill” Owen
“prostate exam” – HSA Brady Contest 2001; The Loose Thread: RMA 2001
“werewolf movie” – HSA Brady Award — Second Place 2001
“early spring”  – Selected poems by w.f. owen
“long day” – Two Autumns Reading (San Francisco, 2003)
“in the park” – Modern Haiku XXXI:3 (2000); A New Resonance 2

November chill–
a barefoot man waits
for the northbound ferry

avalanche warning–
how very still
this winter night

storm clouds roil
across the prairie—
she marks her place

trail’s end—
the taste of wild onion
still sharp on my tongue

… by Billie Wilson . . click for publication credits

The Bill of Rights

The Ten Original Amendments to the Constitution of the United States

Passed by Congress September 25, 1789
Ratified December 15, 1791

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

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.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

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 warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

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.


  1. It was the individual states who ratified ten of the twelve amendments to the constitution proposed by Congress. Virginia’s vote on December 15, 1791, was the last one needed to meet the necessary quota. Congress voted in their first session under the constitution in 1789 to send the twelve proposed amendments, drafted by James Madison, to the states. It was two years later before they became part of the constitution, and thus part of the law.

    Patrick Henry is the one individual who is most singularly responsible for there being a Bill of Rights.

    Carris Kocher, Chairman
    Bill of Rights
    Bicentennial Committee

    Comment by Carris Kocher — December 16, 2008 @ 11:11 pm

  2. Thanks for the clarification, Mr. Kocher.

    Comment by David Giacalone — December 16, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

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