The Republicratic Commonwealth of Kentucky

Someone sent me an insightful email suggesting that each state in the United States declare its own sovereignty and refuse to follow any federal laws except those they find acceptable. It also recommends such things as jailing of illegal immigrants, drug testing welfare recipients, no gun laws and other acts of sovereignty. It got me thinking about doing this in my home state, the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

If you’ve read much of this self-indulgent blog of mine, you know I’m a lawyer. Anything like that email sets my mind spinning. For instance, states can’t refuse to follow federal law. We have a local sheriff here in Kentucky who claims that he won’t enforce any new gun laws and will arrest anyone who does. Once you get past the laughable image of this guy trying to arrest FBI and ATF agents, you can see that such defiance–if real–amounts to insurrection.

This type of “sovereignty” is secession from the union. States have no right to secede. Before you start screaming, read Texas v. White from the United States Supreme Court. That’s the law. There are exceptions. First, there is armed rebellion. Second is by agreement. Since Kentucky doesn’t have a military (The National Guard belongs to the feds but more on that later), we’d have to hope for agreement of the rest of the states. Let’s face it, we’re Kentucky. They might let us leave. It wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Nevertheless, I’m willing to ignore the United States Constitution and decades of jurisprudence to entertain the notion of Kentucky as its own sovereign state. What would we look like?


We call Kentucky a Commonwealth, just like Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts call themselves. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a leftover from colonial times. The only problem I have with it is that it sounds vaguely communistic. Let’s move on.

As some Americans are aware, we have a republican democracy. We elect representatives who (theoretically, at least) represent our interests. They pass laws which are executed by our executive branch and enforced by our courts. Some believe we have the greatest country on Earth with the greatest form of government. I say bullshit to that.

If we’re going to secede, that means we don’t like the federal government. We don’t want it. We don’t need it. There’s no point in looking anything like it. Kentucky has 4.25 million people spread over a mind-boggling 120 counties. Each county is already its own little fiefdom with elected officials, courthouses, graft and whatnot. I say let each one run its own affairs. They can set up their own governments. Most will likely become dictatorships in short order–assuming they aren’t already, but give the people what they want.

We’ll be a sort of confederacy of counties, but we’ll still need a constitution of some kind. Kentucky has a constitution, of course. It is approximately 60,000 pages long. Okay, that’s a lie, but it seems that long what with all the bizarre amendments made to it over the years. It’s going to have to be revamped.

One problem is that it is very similar to the United States Constitution. It makes little sense to break away from federal rule only to keep in place the same framework that led to our secession. We probably need the Bill of Rights, and Kentucky’s is pretty similar to the feds. I say we copy the Bill of Rights except the Second Amendment which will now read:

The right to keep and bear arms is absolute and shall not be limited or constrained by any law, regardless of reasonableness or necessity. “Arms” means anything that can kill people or animals, whether intentionally or accidentally.

We probably should replace “Governor” with something like “King” or “Pharaoh” in the rest of it. Honestly, I’ve never read the whole thing. I don’t think anyone else has, either. Maybe we can keep the rest of it.

We’re not the smartest people. Let’s don’t make it too complicated. Maybe we can start out with anarchy and see what happens.

Regardless of the form of government, what will life in our new nation be like?


This is an easy one–no gun laws. None. No knife or sword laws, either. Why can’t I defend my family with a saber if I want? Maybe I want to scatter bear traps around my yard. So be it. Napalm doesn’t incinerate people. People incinerate people.

No background checks. Why can’t a crazy man defend himself from real and imagined threats? The nuttier you are the more guns you should have. How else will we protect the criminally insane?

Next topic.


This is another easy one. We’ll have the Ten Commandments posted everywhere. I mean everywhere–schools, buses, government buildings, private property, sporting events. Without that irrational United States Supreme Court to interfere, we can even post the entire Book of Deuteronomy if we want. Any kid who can’t describe how to build the Temple can’t graduate from high school.

We’ll pray in school–all day long if we want. It will have to be a Christian prayer, of course. Anyone caught on a prayer rug will be subject to ridicule.  In fact, we might make such ridicule a constitutional right, too.

We’ll even include somewhere in our new Constitution that Jesus wrote it. That will seem crazy at first, but in a few decades people will debate whether or not it is true.


This one is tough. We can’t have a military. Okay, I know some of you are thinking: “Hey, the state runs the National Guard. That’s our militia.” Well, sort of but not really. Since 1903, the National Guard has been run by the feds and–more importantly–funded by the feds. We can’t do it. Plus, who are we going to fight? Hopefully, it won’t be the United States military. Have seen the toys they have?

Remember that we’re going to have plenty of weapons. I think we’ll have enough to fight off an invasion from Indiana or Tennessee. Besides, the chances of anyone wanting to take over Kentucky are pretty remote.


Kentucky receives about $13,000 per person in federal money per year. That’s a hell of a lot. I’m not good at math, but it’s at least billions of dollars each year. Wow.

We have all kinds of taxes in Kentucky–income, sales, property, usage (WTH?) and a bunch of others. I have no idea what it amounts to but I’m sure it’s not close to what we need. Now, that we’re off the federal teat, it’s time to tighten our belts. If we don’t, we might have to raise tax rates to 120% or so. We can survive but how?

Go for the Gold

With the feds off our backs, they’ll close Fort Campbell and Fort Knox. We’ll give them 48 hours to come and get their gold from Fort Knox–maybe we can keep a little of it, too. Would they really miss a couple of tons?


Okay, on the surface, this may seem like a big deal, given that we are dependent on the feds for school funding. Not so. Ever heard of home schooling? That’s what everyone did back in the Good Old Days when everything was better. Teach your own kids, you lazy bastards.

Our state universities will be in peril. We should be able to offer at least a few on-line courses at the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky to keep the basketball programs afloat.


Here’s where our friends in the National Rifle Association will help us. Let’s take the idea of an all-volunteer school security force and expand it to all law enforcement and public safety. With the schools closed, these volunteers will be eager to help out. Besides, every community has dozens–if not thousands–of people who want to carry a gun and wear a badge. Hell, most of them would probably be willing to pay the state.

We have a long history of volunteer fire departments. Let’s just do more of that.


I’ll concede that federal highway money is helpful but only to the extent that you need highways. I suspect that Kentucky has the highest number of ATVs per capita of anywhere on Earth. If any state is ready for dilapidated highways, it’s this one.

What is Kentucky best known for? If you said illegal meth labs, that may be correct, but I’m talking about horses. We have lots of horses, but I hardly ever see anyone riding them. Saddle up.


Good lord, we have a lot of folks drawing disability checks in Kentucky. No more SSI and don’t expect Kentucky to pick up the slack. If you’re too infirm to work, you should really think about moving to the United States. They have systems for that kind of problem. We don’t.

Here’s how it works. If you can work, get a job. If you can’t, leave or maybe you just starve to death. Problem solved.

As far as welfare, bear in mind that’s another federal boondoggle. It has no place in our utopian world so don’t worry about drug testing. We Kentuckians will be free to consume copious amounts of drugs without fear of Big Brother staring over our shoulders.


We won’t use the worthless United States currency. We will print our own money, just like in the old days. It will bear pictures of Adolph Rupp, Daniel Boone, Jim Varney and other famous Kentuckians.

Rather than the worthless crap printed in the United States, our money will be backed by a secure commodity. We will go on the Coal Standard. Our money will be backed by the valuable coal reserves in our state, which we will now be free to mine and burn with abandon. Of course, we can’t burn too much of it or we will have to switch to the Weed Standard which also runs the risk of being burned.


Let’s get one thing straight. No government health care–of any kind. Medicare and Medicaid–those behemoths of our former overlords–are gone. They won’t be replaced, either. We’ll adopt what I call the Bachmann Plan: If you want health insurance, get a job. If you can’t get a job, see comments above.

In fact, health care in general will be discouraged. Haven’t we all had enough of a bunch of holier-than-thou eggheads with stethoscopes telling us how to live our lives? The Founding Fathers didn’t put up with such nonsense.

You may be concerned about such inane things as public health, life expectancy and rampant disease. Given that our health care services are likely to be substandard, at least by so-called “Western” standards, we don’t need a bunch of sick people lingering around making the rest of us sick. A quick death is much better for everyone.


We’ll just be flat against it–in all its forms. No one from a foreign country, which now will include the United States, is allowed. Anyone trying to float across the Ohio River will immediately be attacked by our fleet of coal barges. We’ll just shoot people from Tennessee. That won’t bother any Kentuckian. Hell, it probably won’t bother anyone in Tennessee, either. West Virginians will be a problem, but they’re so similar to us it won’t be a big deal.

We’ll round up all the foreigners and deport them. Anyone who looks, dresses, talks or acts the least bit different will be a suspect. We’ll just dump them in the nearest bordering state.

This may sound like a daunting task, but remember–this is Kentucky. Most people are trying to leave, not get in. We can expect enthusiastic cooperation.

We will make limited exceptions for immigrants who obtain a 5 Star Visa. This visa program will be administered by the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.


The people of Kentucky want to legalize hemp but can’t because of the narcs in D.C. Now, we can cut right to the chase and legalize marijuana. Why? Well, it’s our number one cash crop for starters. Also, we can dispense with the foolishness of pretending we want to wear hemp clothing and shred our hands on rotted hemp rope. We want to smoke the stuff, not wear it.


Like any young nation, we’ll face challenges. Someone like Ashley Judd will try to become dictator. Louisville will probably try to declare itself a city-state like the Vatican. We’ll need to change the state motto from the axiomatic “United We Stand. Divided We Fall” to something less incongruous. We’re up to these challenges.

What if it doesn’t work out? Simple–we’ll just accept massive amounts of foreign aid from the good old U.S. of A. If that doesn’t work, we have a massive stash of chemical weapons in Richmond. That will invite an invasion by the US and the establishment of a new government. That one never fails.

© 2013

John Roberts and the Temple of Doom

I’m a lawyer.  In 25 years of law practice, I’ve read a bunch of U.S. Supreme Court opinions, at least 4 or 5 in their entirety.  Everyone is abuzz about  National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius which was decided on June 28, 2012.  What is that, you ask?  It’s the Obamacare case.  I realize that most folks don’t have the benefit of my education and years of law practice to help them understand what happened.  As a public service, I’ve decided to address these concerns with this primer on Sebelius and what it means.


It’s a law called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  It’s 2700 pages long.  I’ve never read it and won’t.  I tried to read The Fountainhead one time.  It’s only like 1000 pages long.  I just couldn’t do it.


Good question.  It’s the only court required by the Constitution.  There are no qualifications to be on the Court.  You can be foreign-born, any age and have little or no education.  You don’t even have to be a lawyer, although I’m pretty sure all the justices (We call them “justices,” not judges) have been lawyers.  Geddy Lee, Alex Trebek and Jackie Chan could be on the Court.  So could Snookie.


That’s hard to say, really.  I’ve never been there and probably won’t ever be.  I know people who have, and it’s pretty intimidating.  That said, they only hear cases that they want to hear.  You have to petition for a Writ of Certiorari to be heard.  It’s hard to pronounce and even harder to do.  Don’t even try.


Well, there are 9 of them, although the Constitution sets no limit.  If I were in charge, I’d change it to like 27 to make it a free-for-all.  To the best of my knowledge, these are the justices:

  • John Roberts:  He’s the Chief Justice.  Smart dude.  Good writer.  He’s now a scurrilous lackey for the President.
  • Anthony Kennedy:  He’s the wildcard.  Hard to say if he’s liberal or conservative.  I had lunch with him one time.  Okay, maybe not with him, but really close to him.  He seemed like a fine fellow.
  • Antonin Scalia:  Another really smart guy.  Extreme ultra-conservative.  Excellent writer, but a little testy.  Kinda like if your grandfather was a genius and started writing legal opinions.
  • Clarence Thomas:  Come on, you know him.  Gets a lot of flak for not asking questions during oral arguments.  As a lawyer, I like that.  Don’t interrupt my brilliant presentation with your inane questions.
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg:  The tiniest Justice.  Almost elfin.  Wears fabulous neck wear with her robe.
  • Stephen Breyer:   Liberal dude.  His opinions are whiny.  I don’t like that.
  • Alito or Alioto or something like that:  Sorry.  Couldn’t pick him out of a police lineup.
  • Sonia (maybe?) Sotomayor:  Again, don’t much about her.
  • Elena Kagan:  Really liberal.  That’s about it.  Looks like a heavy Rachel Maddow.

They all went to really good law schools.  So, if you went to a state university like I did you got no shot.  Sorry.  Besides, I wouldn’t be any good.  My penchant for foul language would disrupt many an oral argument.  Plus, I’m not that strong a reader.


In a 5-4 vote, the Court upheld most of  Obamacare.  Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion.  He’s supposed to be a conservative but now is viewed as a wild-eyed liberal.

As an aside, I know that “Obamacare” started as a derisive tag for this act, but it’s really catchy.  It has a certain flow to it.


Honestly, I haven’t read the whole opinion.  Actually, there are multiple opinions.  All Supreme Court  rulings have a syllabus at the beginning that summarizes the ruling.  That’s usually good enough for me.  Eventually the opinion will be published and then will have “head-notes” included.  These are like bullet points at the beginning that tell you the highlights.  Sort of like Cliff Notes.  For most lawyers, head-notes will suffice unless you’re some kind of egghead. Or a law professor, but they aren’t really lawyers anyway.

The opinion has something to do with the Commerce Clause of the Constitution which gives the Federal Government the power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.”  You’ll have to trust me on this one, but that little clause gives the government the power of Thor.  BUT, it doesn’t give it the power to make you buy health insurance.  Now, if you belong to an Indian tribe, you may be SOL, but I don’t know for sure.  Chances are that they can force the Indians to do anything.

What they CAN do is tax you for NOT buying health insurance.  So, Obamacare can tax your ass for not buying insurance.  That’s it.  Learn to live with it. Oddly enough, the Indians are exempted from this part.  Go figure.

I don’t know if they’re crazy (the Supreme Court, not the Indians).  They might be.  Justice Ginsburg looks a little crazy.  Thomas is quiet which is certainly a sign of craziness, but he was against the ruling.  If he’s crazy, it’s for other reasons.

Justice Roberts wrote the bulk of the Court’s opinion.  He doesn’t seem crazy to me, but he could be. Sometimes people who don’t appear to be crazy are really super-crazy.  He could be the Ted Bundy of the Court.  I’m not suggesting that he’s a serial killer nor am I suggesting he’s not.  Draw your own conclusions.


We can’t.  He’s appointed for life and would have to be impeached.  It won’t ever happen.  You have more chance of making out with Salma Hayek.  Or Bradley Cooper.  Or both.


No, unless you now qualify for Medicaid, which may be expanded if your state wants to expand Medicaid, which it doesn’t have to, by the way.  If you qualify for Medicaid, your life might suck so much that you don’t really care about staying healthy anyway.


Basically, the government can tax you now for not having health insurance (unless you’re an Indian).  Some now fear that they will be taxed for not eating broccoli, although I’m not sure that’s in the Act.  It could well be, of course.  Justice Roberts reaffirmed what we already know:  The government can tax you into the poorhouse.  I didn’t need him to tell me that.


Because you can afford health insurance but won’t buy it. What kind of idiot wouldn’t have health insurance if he could afford it?   It’s the Idiot Tax.  If you can’t afford the tax, you go to a gulag full of sick people.  It will really suck.  Okay, I made up that part, but they could tax you for not going to the gulag.  THAT would be perfectly legally.


Of course.  Taxes are bad.  Bad, bad, bad.  This tax is really bad, because it brands YOU as the problem.  You not only get taxed, but you’re also identified as a selfish jackass.


Nothing as far as I know.  But I’m sure there’s something about them in the 2700 pages of the Act.  Like our members of Congress, I have no intention of ever reading the whole act.  Here’s how it probably will work:  You’ll contract some deadly disease like Ebola virus.  At this point, the only decent thing to do is go ahead and die.  If you refuse to die, the Death Panel will tax you for staying alive until you do the patriotic thing and give up.  If that doesn’t work, they’ll invoke the Patriot Act on you and send Navy Seal Team 6 to your house.  And that will be that.


I think so.  I think it’s like the Supreme Court.  There are no real qualifications. Well, except you have to be alive, of course. Maybe.


Possibly, but it depends on how sick you are.  If you’re kinda sick, it’s okay.  If you’re extremely sick, that’s bad (see the comments on the Death Panels above).  Of course, it’s always bad to be extremely sick, but you might have health insurance now, unless you’re an Indian.


Of course.  Since everyone will be insured, there will be less incentive to stay healthy.


There is some good news.  The so-called Slacker Mandate allows you to stay on your parents’ health insurance until age 26.  Make yourself comfortable in the basement and get as sick as you want.


Good news:  They’ll have to insure you.  Bad news:  I was uninsurable for a while and bought my coverage through a high risk pool.  Good luck affording that.


Only if you are insured under the Slacker Mandate, in which case you must use them even if you are not in a relationship. Plus, you’ll be forced to use them with random uninsured people chosen by the government.


It’s simple, really.  Since more people will be insured, the risk will be spread around which will offset the increased cost of insuring pre-existing conditions and more people.  The insurance companies will pass this savings on to YOU, rather than just pocketing the increased profits.

Oh, hell, I just read that somewhere.  I have no idea how it would decrease costs.  My health insurance premiums go up every year.  Why would that change? If you know, tell me.


Sorta.  Sadly, the Constitution doesn’t have a Popularity Clause allowing the Court to throw out unpopular laws.  We can, however, vote.  Now, don’t get confused.  You can’t vote against Justice Roberts.  Remember, he has a job for life.


You’d think that would work, but it won’t.  The last amendment took over 200 years to get approved.  So, you’ll long be dead by then unless Obamacare results in us all living to be 300 years old.  If that happens, we’ll probably be okay with it.


Of course not.  We’re Americans.  You can use its catchy acronym:  PPACA.  Here are some other alternatives:  Barackacare; Robertscare; Obamalamadingdongcare; Osamacare; ObamaScare; Yomamacare; YoYoMaCare; and Whocares.


It’s either the greatest opinion in the history of jurisprudence or the end of the republic.  The Court struck a blow for better and more affordable healthcare or eviscerated the Constitution.  We’re on the road to Communism or joining the 21st Century.  It is the single greatest moment ever (Barack Obama’s view only) or the last puzzle piece needed to establish a worldwide caliphate (Glenn Beck only).  I have no idea.


That’s one possible solution–or you can join an Indian tribe, if that’s allowed.  Here’s the rub:  Almost every other country has some form of socialized medicine, plus they suck in all kinds of others way.  For example, they won’t have football.  Also, they may not speak English.

Greece has really good health care, but everything else about Greece sucks.  France, too, but, hey, it’s France.  What are you, a Commie?  I’m not sure what you should do.  People in Monaco live to be around 90.  They must be good.

Our government already provides about 65% of all the health insurance anyway.  Let’s just stay here and see what happens.  Plus, we have football.  Don’t forget that.


Yes, that’s what I’m saying.  At least there’s no hope of going back to Ron Paul’s childhood where doctors made house calls and you paid your surgical bills with chickens or pelts.

While everyone was chewing off their arms over Obamacare, the Supreme Court quietly delivered its opinion in United States v. Alvarez.  That involved a law which makes it illegal to lie about having military medals.  In other words, you can’t buy a Purple Heart off eBay and go around pretending to be a war hero.  The law is unconstitutional, because we have the right to lie.  Outraged, are you?  Don’t be.  If the government can criminalize lying, it can also decide which lies to criminalize and, ultimately, what is true and what isn’t.  That’s a blow for freedom.  All is not lost.  A good thing happened on the same day as a bad thing, assuming you think a bad thing happened at all.  That’s exactly what they want you to think.

Now, those of us willing to plumb deeper into the depravity of the Supreme Court note the “coincidence” of Alvarez holding that lying can’t be a crime on the same day they found that Obamacare is a tax.  The President, of course, said it wasn’t a tax, which means he was lying.  But lying isn’t a crime now, is it?  Hmmmm.  Well played, Mr. President and your lap-dog, Chief Justice Roberts.


Most–if not all–of what the government does is perfectly fine under the Constitution.  That doesn’t mean I like it, and it certainly doesn’t mean I support it.  In fact, most of what the government does is imbecilic. I’m not all that worked up about Obamacare, but I have a bunch of other stuff stuck in my craw.  I’m not counting on John Roberts and his cabal of Fellow Travelers to unstick my craw, either.  I’m voting.  You should, too.

One word of caution.  The call now is for “Repeal and Replace!”  Another gaggle of Congressional idiots will draft the replacement.  Oh well, that will just give us another crisis to get hair-lipped over.

© 2012

Become a Constitutional Expert

People nowadays love to talk about the “Constitution.”  Of course, I mean the United States Constitution.  Here in Kentucky, we don’t talk much about the state constitution, except when we want to amend it for things like gambling and eliminating the Railroad Commissioner.  The US Constitution is all the rage, though.  It wasn’t always that way.  Twenty or thirty years ago, you rarely heard people debating it, but they do now.  I suspect that’s a good thing.

I’m lawyer, but I’m not a constitutional law expert.  I don’t know anyone who is.  Now, I do know lawyers who are skilled in certain areas like criminal procedure and civil rights.  They have to know about the Constitution.  I have occasionally dealt with constitutional issues, but it usually requires a fair amount of research on my part.  With that disclaimer, I’m willing to bet I know as much about the Constitution as most folks.  Even if I don’t, I still feel free to offer this handy guide to all you need to know about it.

One way to learn about it is to go to law school.  Con Law, as we call it, is pretty dry stuff.  You have to read a lot of case law.  That’s a lot of work to do for something that people like Glenn Beck are free to opine about it without so much as a college education.  No, you don’t have to go to that trouble.  Here’s what you do:  Read it.  Then, realize that there is over 200 years of jurisprudence involved in interpreting and applying it.  Pretty simple.  But, if you’re American, it’s your Constitution, whether you went to law school or not.  If you’re not American, go read whatever nutty thing you have in your inferior country.

Here’s what the Constitution won’t do for you:  It doesn’t protect us from everything we don’t like.  Just because we don’t like a law, for example, doesn’t make it unconstitutional.  Let’s say the government brings back the military draft.  It would be horribly unpopular, but it wouldn’t be unconstitutional.  On the other hand, a popular law can be unconstitutional.  Pretend for a moment that the government outlaws Islam.  If, for one, would be horrified by that, but I know many people who would cheer.  Sorry, but it would be unconstitutional.

Another point:  the Constitution doesn’t guarantee “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  That’s actually in the Declaration of Independence.  The Declaration of Independence isn’t part of the Constitution and wasn’t written at the same time.  It’s completely different and not the basis of anything important–except the breaking away from King George deal.  Forget about it, except on the 4th of July.

The guts of the Constitution are in the seven articles that made up the original document.  Don’t worry about that much.  It’s just a bunch of details about how the federal government is set up, interstate commerce, elections and other minutia.  It’s like the Books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.  It’s important, but it’s mind-numbing.  It’s the amendments that get everyone worked up.  The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments, but there are a bunch more.  Here’s a summary of all you need to know about them.


Most people know something about this one:  Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.  Here’s how it works:  The government can’t make it illegal for you to call your boss a son of a bitch.  If you actually call your boss a son of bitch, the government can’t do anything to you.  Your boss, however, can fire you.  He’s not the government.  There’s no constitutional protection against people getting pissed off at you.  It also allows us to lie.  That’s right.  You have the right to lie.  But, you don’t have the right to defraud or defame people.  General lying, though, is okay.

Freedom of the press works the same way.  That’s why you get so worked by what you read.  The press is free to express whatever opinions it wants, whether popular or not.  During World Wars I and II, we kind of trampled on speech and the press, but otherwise we’ve been pretty good about protecting these.

Here’s an important tip:  You can’t threaten to kill people.  Constitution won’t protect you.

Assembly:  Hey, if you want to join the Ku Klux Klan, go right ahead.  Now, of course, that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t condemn you over it, but the government can’t throw you in jail.

Religion:  The government will allow you to worship as you see fit and won’t establish a state church or religion.  I know we spend all our time fretting about prayer in schools and contraception and the like, but this should be embraced by everyone.  The government butts out of the religion business.  Now, what the government can’t do–much to the chagrin of many–is declare the United States is a Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other nation.  I know that chafes people, especially those that are unburdened by history, but it’s a fact.  The Constitution itself does not make reference anywhere in it to being based upon Christianity or any other religion.  In fact, just ten years after the Constitution was adopted, the United States entered into a treaty with the nation of Tripoli, which said:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

There is no record of even slight debate about President Adams signing the treaty.  Rather than causing people to tear at their robes (to use a favorite Biblical image), we should all be glad.  No one can tell us how or what or if to worship.  It’s up to us.  That’s good.


Another popular one, the right to keep and bear arms.  We can own guns.  Yes, there can be restrictions, just like there can be on speech, but the right exists.  It doesn’t mean that there can’t crimes related to the USE of guns or restrictions on possession.  The bottom line is that we can be–and are–armed to the teeth.  Good thing about this one is that you can become a Second Amendment fanatic or advocate.  It’s a full-time job for some people.  Thank you, First Amendment.


Don’t worry about this one.  It’s about being forced to quarter soldiers in your home.  If that happens, you don’t have to put up with it.  Once, I tried to become a Third Amendment fanatic, but I couldn’t get any followers.


This is a biggie.  No unreasonable searches and seizures.  The cops can’t just show up at your house and kick in the door.  Understand though, that if they have a search warrant all bets are pretty much off.  My criminal lawyer friends love this one and know all the ends and outs of it.  You probably don’t need this one unless you are in serious trouble.  If you are, I can give you a referral to a good lawyer.

This is also one of those “technicalities” often cited when charges are dropped or evidence excluded against an accused criminal.  Remember that.  This “technicality” is also the same kind of technicality that lets us own our guns and go to our churches.


Anyone who watches much TV knows this one–taking the “Fifth.”  There used to be Ecclesiastic courts.  They would accuse you of a crime and then demand that you prove you didn’t do it.  We don’t do that.  The government has to prove its case against you without your help.  Again, if you need this one, you’re probably in a fair amount of trouble.  (See the Sixth Amendment)


Due Process:  You have the right to know what you’re charged with; the witnesses; speedy trial; right to an attorney.  This is all good stuff.  Government can’t hold you in jail forever without charging or telling you what you did.  Folks like to say that criminals have more rights than their victims.  They don’t.  They have the same rights.

If you want to know what it’s like without this, check out the inmates in Gitmo.  No Sixth Amendment, no rights.


If you get into any of the above trouble, you can have a jury under certain circumstances.


Government can’t inflict cruel or unusual punishment or excess fines.  For example, if you have outstanding parking tickets, a law putting you in jail for 100 years is a no-no.  Also, a fine of $1,000,000 probably is too harsh.  This also eliminates such things as burning at the stake and drawing and quartering.

What about the death penalty, you say?  No problem.  It’s not cruel and we certainly can’t call it unusual.  Of course, this depends on the method and the reasons.  Hanging, electrocution, shooting, asphyxiation by gas and deadly drugs are all okay.  Burning alive and ripping apart are not good.  A friend of mine once suggested sticking the condemned’s head in a bear trap.  That’s probably no good, either.  Must be proportionate to the offense.  Murderers are fair game.  Treason?  You bet.  After that, it gets sketchy.  We used to execute rapists, kidnappers, horse thieves and pretty much anyone who seemed problematic.  It’s a little tougher now, which is probably good.  Probably.


Just because something isn’t listed in the previous eight amendments doesn’t mean you might not have other rights.


A lot of people love this one.  Essentially, it says that anything not granted to the federal government belongs to the states.  WARNING:  There is a mountain of case law about this.  Militias and TV talking heads love this one.  Anytime you hear someone pontificate about “states’ rights” this is what they’re talking about.


It has something to do with suing states in federal court.  Basically, you can’t do it.


Fixes something screwed up about the electoral college.  Move along.  Nothing to see here.


Abolishes slavery.  Nuff said.


States have to give you due process protection, too, not just the feds.  Makes most of the first ten amendments applicable to the states, too. Oh, and the law applies to everyone equally.  Has bunch of stuff in it, too, about dealing with the Confederacy.


Can’t prevent people from voting based on race, color or being a former slave.


Good news!  The federal government can impose an income tax!  If some nut tells you he can prove that the income tax is unconstitutional, he’s wrong.


Senators are to elected by direct votes, instead of being chosen by their state governors.  Who cares?


Hello, Prohibition!  Woo hoo!  No alcohol in the US!


Women can vote!  Woo hoo! (I guess)


Something about terms of office.


Goodbye, Prohibition!  Woo hoo! (hic!)


President can only serve two terms


The District of Columbia gets to vote in the Presidential election.  Big whoop.


No poll taxes.  I don’t even know what that is.


This is about succession if the President dies or leaves office.  TIP:  Don’t even bother reading this unless the President and Vice President die.


You can vote if you’re 18.


This has to do with Congress’s salaries.  To give you an idea of how hard it is to get an amendment dealing with Congressional pay, it took about 200 years to get this one ratified after it was originally proposed.

There you have it.  The Constitution and all 27 amendments. You can readily see that the vast majority of these amendments are of no interest to anyone.  Some–like the 13th–are a very big deal.  Others, like Prohibition, are just plain stupid.  The Bill of Rights is very important–except the 3rd Amendment.

It’s hard to amend the Constitution.  That’s very important.  It keeps us from cobbling together such things as bans against Americans holding titles of nobility and legalizing slavery, both of which never got much traction.  If you want to see what a constitution looks like when it’s been frequently amended, read the Kentucky Constitution.  It reads like the unabridged version of the Unabomber Manifesto.

If you’d like to learn about how the Constitution was adopted, watch the School House Rock video on the Constitution.  It’s still the best thing I’ve ever seen or read about the subject.

Now, you’re an expert.  Or not.  But you have the right to pretend like you are.  Thank you, First Amendment.

© 2012