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Funny Times November 2014 Issue

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Amending the Constitution

By Ray Lesser

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah recently proposed amending the constitution to allow a foreign-born person (for example, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ozzy Osbourne) to run for President after they have been a citizen of the United States for at least 20 years. (Schwarzenegger has been a citizen for almost 21 years; Osbourne reportedly has no interest in becoming President, although he has challenged Arnold to a live bat-head biting contest.)

Meanwhile, President Bush, in his State of the Heterosexual Union speech, suggested amending the constitution to define marriage as “the union between a rich, white older man who no longer has to pay taxes, and a beautiful younger woman who will love, honor, and obey him until such time as she can figure out a way to disconnect his life support.”

Ben Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and the other founding fathers had no way of knowing the complexity of the issues Americans would face in the 21st century. Maybe it’s time for a new constitutional convention to radically overhaul the crumbling parchment on which our nation is founded. Here are a few other amendments for consideration:

Revised Article VI, National Debts The United States can run up as big a debt as we want, and all other countries in the world shall be required to buy as many Treasury Bonds, Notes, Bills, or mega-million Lotto tickets as we care to print. Remember, we’ve got The Bomb, and we’re crazy enough to use it. So just put all your foreign currency, watches, video game players, and other valuable exports into the bag, hand it over, and nobody gets hurt.

Amendment 29 All clones born or naturalized in the United States, or clones of American citizens born abroad are citizens of the United States. All other bio-engineered sentient life forms created in the United States, and capable of passing standardized tests of intelligence (such as answering at least four consecutive questions on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?), are also considered citizens, with the full privileges of citizenship. Any foreign-born vegetable, or vegetable-like entity, can become a citizen upon passing a citizenship exam and expressing loyalty to the soil of the United States. Furthermore, any vegetable is eligible for public office after being a citizen for at least seven years, with the exception of turnips and rutabagas, which are eligible to serve in congress, but not in the judicial of executive branches.

Amendment 30 Henceforth, the official national anthem is “We Will Rock You” by Queen. The anthem is sacred, and can only be played at critical junctures of a public event, such as when the opposing team is bringing in a relief pitcher with tying and/or winning runners in scoring position. It should never be used to introduce the salesman-of-the- month at a local real-estate office or car dealership meeting, and violators shall be subject to confiscation of all audio and Powerpoint equipment, as well as being required to listen to “Muskrat Love” by Captain and Tenille, “I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow, or “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris until they beg forgiveness.

Amendment 31 No adult child shall, in time of college or other post-high-school lifestyle transformations, be quartered in any parent’s house, without the consent of that parent, and the willingness to act like an adult and do their share of laundry, dishes, and other housechores, including icky stuff like cleaning out the litter box of the cat that their mother told them she didn’t want and wasnÕt going to help take care of, but they insisted on bringing home anyway.

Amendment 32 After a corporation produces huge amounts of toxic waste, it shall not be allowed to bury it all next to its factory or mine, declare bankruptcy, change its name and move offshore to the Bahamas. Instead, all the officers and Board of Directors of the corporation shall be required to live within 50 yards of the toxic waste site until such time as the site is completely cleaned and restored, or until said officers mutate into freakish monsters, go on a horrible rampage, and are given their own reality show on Fox cable.

Amendment 33 No person should have to wait in a doctor’s examination room, stripped naked and wearing one of those paper napkins, for longer than 15 minutes. If no medical personnel has come by after 15 minutes, it is permissible for the patient to throw on their coat and go screaming through the office, demanding to see the doctor. If the doctor is not able to see the patient within 15 minutes of asking them to strip naked and sit in a cold plastic chair, then the doctor should not have asked them to strip naked in the first place, and as a penalty, the patient will be personally refunded double their money for the visit, no matter what outrageous fee their doctor customarily charges.

Amendment 34 Because of the desire for people to feel safe and secure, especially when they are driving alone on a dark highway in a crappy American-made car, and because of the compulsive need of their bosses and children to interrupt them at any moment of the day or night with stupid questions, the right of the people to keep and bear cell-phones (with built-in digital cameras) shall not be infringed.

What is “Clean” Content?

By Ray Lesser

The owner of CleanFlicks video stores in Utah is suing some of Hollywood’s biggest movie directors, including Steven Spielberg, Robert Redford, Martin Scorcese and Steven Soderbergh, for the right to censor their movies, and then rent or sell the “cleaned up” videotapes.

CleanFlicks claims they have a First Amendment right to excise foul language, sexual content and violence from videos destined for private use. “The interest of these plaintiffs is to remove the ‘rough edges’ – the objectionable content – only for the family viewing audience,” CleanFlicks’ spokesman said. Their customers “personal sensitivities don’t allow them to view the unaltered work, but they appreciate the storyline or historical context and want to be able to view the movie, without having to listen to the ‘F’ word.”

With the advent of new technology a whole industry of do-it-yourself censorship has sprung up in America. For example, Trilogy Studios founder Breck Rice said that his company’s MovieMask software does not alter movie content, but instead masks offensive material on DVDs. “It’s like taking a Picasso home,” he said. “Other companies in our space are painting right on that masterpiece and permanently altering it. It’s been changed and it’s no longer a Picasso. We put a piece of cellophane over it; you can remove the cellophane, and it’s still the same painting.”

I’m not sure what Picasso would have thought about anti-Blue Period parents racing around museums, just ahead of their children, taping cellophane over his nudes. But the Directors Guild of America is mad enough to use the “F” word, and is countersuing CleanFlicks. “We are appalled at the proliferation of companies that bypass the copyright holder and the filmmaker and arbitrarily alter the creative expression and hard work of the many artists involved in filmmaking,” said director Steven Soderbergh, who is first vice president of the DGA. “It is unconscionable, and unethical, to take someone else’s hard work, alter it and profit from it. Would anyone even attempt to defend ripping pages out of a book, leaving the author’s name on it and then selling it?”

I guess Soderbergh never read one of Reader’s Digest’s abridged books. Or maybe he’s never watched any of the censored versions of movies that play almost constantly on network and cable TV, interrupted every five to ten minutes to sell us more sex, lies, and self-help videotapes. Whether the directors like it or not, technology will soon be available to filter out whatever the consumer wishes to. CleanFlicks Mormon customers happen to be afraid of, and upset by nudity and bad language. But Americans are filled with all sorts of fears. Afraid of terrorists? Simply edit them out of your news. Does John Ashcroft nauseate you? Slap a filter on your media input and you’ll never have to see or hear him whine again. Offended by overweight comedians? Banish John Goodman, Rosie O’Donnell, Chris Farley, and Jackie Gleason forever. Can’t stand smokers or alcoholics? Expunge them and their filthy habits.

Gone will be the days of searching for hours through the video store for something that you might like. You’ll just type in all your desires and interests and a tailor made entertainment will come streaming your way. Your TV and media viewing can become as carefully constructed as an ad in the personals for a roommate. “Seeking hot, young, professional, vegetarians, good at Bulgarian folk dances and cat grooming to solve murder-mystery on the high seas in 18th century period costumes.”

Freedom of the press used to only be for people who owned their own printing press. Now, with the advent of the internet it is possible for anyone to self-publish and have access to an audience of millions, although in practice the only way you can get millions of hits is if you’re self-publishing nude photos of Britney Spears. So, in America today, freedom of the press is for those who either own a press or have pictures of Britney Spears naked.

But that will all change soon, as those naked pictures continue to drive the demand for the various new filtering and censoring technologies. CleanFlicks got its start in 1998 by selling 1700 edited copies of Titanic. The only scene it censored was the one of Kate Winslet posing nude for an artist played by Leonardo DiCaprio. The holy grail of filtering software is a program that will automatically act as a parent would act, and shield children from graphic sex, violence, and bad language, while nagging them to sit up straight and finish doing their reports.

Instead, the opposite is just as likely to occur. As one movie censor software executive said, “Once software enters the marketplace, someone will figure out how to alter that program for other purposes. If a program can slap a blouse on Kate Winslet in Titanic, someone could also alter the technology to take her clothes off. And how would that play in Utah?”