(Note: This article ended up being rather lengthy, more so than I anticipated. Expect a good five minutes to get through this one. – KG)

Progressives like me make a point of hammering the Bush administration for every misstep it takes. And to be fair, they make it pretty easy for us, what with banner moments like the Medicare prescription plan, the Katrina response, and the Heckuva Job in Iraq®. But how often do we get the chance to remark when they do something with such acumen that it makes David Copperfield blush? It is with this in mind that I offer congratulations to the Bush administration, and more specifically to the president himself, for succeeding where no other president has succeeded before. For in the short span of just 5 years, George Bush has managed to reverse the course of American history by expanding governmental power to its largest size ever while shrinking the protections of the Bill of Rights. Never has this feat been attempted, let alone achieved. Golf clap, please, for the president. He may be the most cunning man alive. Or at least the most agreeable puppet.

Oh, I know what you in the far right ‘majority’ are saying right now. (Yes, all 37% of you.) “What are you talking about? No one has taken my rights away.” This, it seems, is the most common retort from the right when a discussion of the Incredible Shrinking Bill of Rights takes place between the left and the right. (Second place is “I don’t have anything to hide anyway. What do I care?”) Remember, the loss of rights is incremental and often unnoticed. Kind of like a roll of toilet paper, in that you never notice it getting smaller. But when you’re staring a an empty cardboard tube with your pants around you ankle, you understand that you’re in a bit of a bind. So, to fully appreciate the significance of this impressive accomplishment, I offer this brief analysis.

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.

Under Attack: Taken piece by piece; true, no national religion has yet been established, but there is a remarkable concentration of Christian Evangelicism amongst the upper ranks of government, including a president who operates on direct orders from God; and true that all religions can pretty much practice freely in America. But do expect some derision if your religion is Islam or anything else that sounds like lunch meat; we still retain our freedom to speak too, but if we do say anything against the president or his brilliant ideas, we are of course, traitors; a free press is now a myth, having been seen as such a good bargain (being free after all) that all of the news outlets have been homogenized into about a handful of really rich info barons, who of course return the favor of a deregulated media by teaching all their reporters the time honored ‘copy, paste’ technique of information dissemination; the freedom to assemble is spotty too, unless you are willing to sign a loyalty note or hold your rally in upper Montana in the winter. You can gather all you want, but we’re watching you and we’ll be moving you out soon. And of course that pesky petition the government deal is simply ridiculous. Petition all you want, but all their stuff is top secret, and the laws don’t apply to them anyhow.

Analysis: While nearly 4 in ten Americans think the 1st Amendment ‘goes too far’, the First Amendment is still technically intact, but a mere shell of it’s original self, weak and mostly for show.

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.

Under Attack: Actually, this one seems to be fine under Bush. In fact, the Vice President showed us all last year how vital it is to have firearms handy, especially when lawyers are hanging around.

Analysis: Although used as a whipping post against the Democrats, this amendment is considered strong and safe. Besides, if the president really wanted to disarm the nation, he could always unleash the bird flu on us.

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.

Under Attack: Actually, this one seems to be fine under Bush too. Probably because all the soldiers are off dying in the deserts of the Middle East. But hey…NIMBY goes for the troops too, n’est pa?

Analysis: Full 3rd Amendment rights intact (Damn…am I disproving my own thesis here? So far we still have 2 of 3 rights pretty much okay, with the third at least still a nice window dressing. Hmmmm, better continue cautiously.)

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

Under Attack: Phew! I knew this was going to get easier! With the passing, or should I say, browbeating through, of the Patriot Act, government can now conduct ‘sneak and peak’ searches without a warrant, without ever telling the person about it. A person can be arrested based only on suspicion, their homes, personal belongings, and written communications can be perused at will, as long as we cite the War on Terror. On his word, the president can declare you to be a enemy of the state and no court can take it back. Plus, we’ve got the NSA too, so nothing you do is really unknown to the government. Hell, who needs a warrant when you’ve got secret technology and 300 million people to use it on? Now that’s some serious deciding power indeed!

Analysis: What Fourth Amendment?

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.

Under Attack: Okay, now we are rolling. This president really knows how to pick up speed! The previously mentioned ‘enemy combatant’ status makes obsolete the necessity to actually charge someone with a crime because we are in a perpetual state of public danger now. 9-11 remember? You are either a republican or you are with the enemy. If you are with the enemy (i.e .not republican), you can be labeled a traitor many times over, so don’t talk to me about double jeopardy. We can still not compel you to testify against yourself, but we’ve picked up some pretty clever interrogation tactics that seem to make people cry out what we want need to hear. Due process of law? A little Bush speak and presto- We’ll process you when we do.
Not sit down and shut up. As for private property rights? Give me a K. Give me an E. Give me an L. Give me an O. What’s that spell? Screw you and your property rights too! That’s right. An ‘ultra-conservative’ has presided over the disappearance of personal property rights, one of the keystones of the capitalistic society.

Analysis: (Taps playing in the background.)

Half time update: Bill of Rights Intact: 2
Bill of Rights Demolished: 2
Bill of Rights On Life Support: 1

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.

Under Attack: Speedy Trial? Too passé. Today’s ultra chic justice leaders prefer no trial at all. No specific charges, provided you seem unusual or are turned in for ransom money by an angry neighbor. In fact, the president has managed to get authority to withhold any formal charges indefinitely, until he can think of something good to use, I guess. If your accuser is the government, you can’t confront them either, because both the means and the information they have is top secret. Even to you, the accused. Especially to you, the accused. We’ll still get you a lawyer, but it may take a few years to actually meet with them. Not to worry, you’re not going anywhere anyhow. After all, if you’ve gotten to the point where we decided to imprison you in this way, you probably are a traitor anyhow.

Analysis: While the disintegration of the 6th Amendment is occurring slowly and is currently targeted primarily at certain populations, the precedent has been set to apply the new definitions anytime and against anyone. Goodbye Number 6. See you on the other side.

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.

Under Attack: Continued tort reform laws have virtually insulated corporations from civil liability in all but the most egregious cases. And when was the last time anybody sued for only twenty bucks? We don’t have time for that kind of crap. Isn’t that what we have The People’s Court for? Fortunately the president knows when to use his eraser.

Analysis: Basically, this one is now worthless, but in fairness, the president has failed to alter this amendment in any meaningful way, primarily because it has been voided by the courts and congress first.

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

Under Attack: Not included in the definition of cruel or unusual is torture interrogation. Provided you don’t actually die, that is. Also, by increasing the War on Drugs®, we are now able to incarcerate more pot smokers, especially those fakers who are trying to pass it off as medicine. No amount of imprisonment could ever be considered excessive for these folks. After all, buying pot funds terror, remember?

Analysis: Excessive , schmexcessive. The Decider will decide what needs to be decided here.

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

Under Attack: Yeah, right. Like the people can be trusted to know what rights they need to have. Bush has boldly challenged this very flimsily worded amendment by promoting several constitutional amendments so that regular people will know that they should legitimize hate against homosexuals by denying them equality and physically restrain people from burning an American flag. But why stop at rights? This president really knows how to gut a principal. What with mandatory education programs, national ID programs, and a keen sense of whether dead people are really dead or just really, really out of it, but able to come back at any time, there are no rights, either enumerated or not that that president can’t modify with a properly placed signing statement.

Analysis: You only have the rights we want you to think you have.

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.

Under Attack: See previous argument.

Analysis: See previous analysis.

Final Tally: Bill of Rights Intact: 2 (2nd and 3rd)
Bill of Rights Demolished: 7 (4th through 10th)
Bill of Rights On Life Support: 1 (1st)

So there you have it. The Incredible Shrinking Bill of Rights, courtesy of the Bush Administration. Next time I complain about the loss of America, you’ll know what I mean. In the meantime, how about a hearty round of applause for the president. His hand lies heavily over much of the destruction, and the rest occurred on his watch. Hey, he wants the credit for all the good things, right? It’s only fair then, that I give him credit for this, the downfall of the Bill of Rights, and the darkening of America.

(originally posted at Bring It On )