A British Bill of Rights?

News from across the pond: Prime Minister Gordon Brown is considering a written constitution for Britain, including a U.S.-style "bill of rights." Can that idea really travel across the Atlantic?

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown has an idea. It may strike Brits' as radical. It won't strike many Americans that way. Brown is considering a written constitution with the U.S.-style Bill of Rights. Sounds reasonable. But humorist Andy Borowitz doubts that this idea would cross the Atlantic unscathed.

ANDY BOROWITZ: The Americans and the British have a long and storied history of stealing each other's ideas. We stole "Survivor" and "Big Brother." Even "American Idol" was originally British, although I'm pretty sure they called it something else. And now it seems British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is intent on ripping off our Bill of Rights.

Only time will tell who's getting the better end of this cultural exchange, but all I can say to the British is, buyer beware. The Bill of Rights is one of those American institutions that was awesome when it first came out. But now it's looking a little worse for wear. Sort of like Britney Spears.

Let's take our famous First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech. We Americans believe we have a God-given right to say whatever we want for as long as we want. For proof of this, one need only watch the Academy Awards.

And yet, there is nothing in the Bill of Rights that protects the very thing that makes such speech possible - the English language, which is under daily attack from our own president. On the day he took office, George W. Bush cancelled the agreement between nouns and verbs. The Bill of Rights was powerless to stop him.

The Second Amendment is a favorite of America's largest religious group - gun lovers. This amendment protects our God-given right to own semi-automatic weapons - and the more, the better. It's been an unqualified success. There are more than 200 million guns in the United States. That means no one has to go without one, not even the criminally insane or babies.

However, while the Bill of Rights protect the right to bear arms, it doesn't preserve another right that I think is almost as important - the right not to be shot at.

The Third Amendment is totally whacked. 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. This amendment was written in 1791, and I guess Americans still have fresh memories of what terrible houseguests British soldiers were.

But the third amendment is woefully out of date. I can't remember the last time a British soldier showed up at my apartment in Manhattan and asked to spend the night. Anyway, British soldiers nowadays rarely overstay their welcome. In Iraq for example, they're leaving even before President Bush wants them to.

I won't even bother going through amendments four through ten. Suffice it to say, I think the British can do better. Meanwhile, let's keep those cultural exchanges going. We gave them Madonna and they let us have Beckham. I guess we'll have to wait for that needy hill(ph) before we know who got the better end of that one.

HANSEN: Comedian Andy Borowitz is the star of next week's news at Caroline's Comedy Club in New York.

This is NPR News.

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