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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Freedom of Speech

"If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech." - Justice Anthony M. Kennedy writing for the majority in last week's US Supreme Court decision that the government may not ban corporate spending in political campaigns.

President Obama called the decision, "a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."

The First Amendment reads: "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."

Wikipedia explains that "The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the Congress from making laws "respecting an establishment of religion", impeding the free exercise of religion, infringing on the freedom of speech and infringing on the freedom of the press. In the 20th century, the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies the First Amendment to each state, including any local government."

As much as it is common practice now to mistrust or blame the media, the fourth estate is a valuble part of our Democracy. The media can and has been the eyes and ears of the people, albeit filtered through the corporate ownership and advertisers who sustain it. Will the ability of corporations to pay heavily to support campaigns and issue impact the media outlets that depend on those advertising dollars and the corporations other product and image advertising?

What doe you think?

Does expensive mass media advertising constitute the kind of free speech that the Constitution's authors had in mind?

What about viral marketing via social media? Is that more like the freedom of expression they understood and intended to protect?

How will corporate funds impact our decision making and elections?

Will low to middle income Americans be represented in their best interests?

Are they now?

Is American business and unrestrained capitalism?

If capitalism works so well, why are people looking to government to bring back the jobs?

Do corporations have the same rights as individuals?

Some high court decisions have put boundaries around free speech, using community standards and public policy arguments. This decision seems to me to lean in the direction of an almost Kantian, categorical interpretation of the First Amendment.

What do you think?

For additional information there are several key sources:

The Bill of Rights

A source for issues related to free speech and the First Amendment is California State University, Long Beach's Center for first Amendment Studies

Find Law directory exploring the First Amendment

A deeper look from Cornell University

The human edge: being different and why we are the way we are

Photo Skip Peterson for NPR

From NPR News
It takes a smart brain to invent a spaceship. But putting one in orbit takes a brain
with extraordinary social skills.
That's because getting from concept to launchpad takes more than technology
 — it takes thousands of people agreeing on a common goal and
working together to accomplish it.
Humans have succeeded in part because we evolved a brain with a
remarkable capacity for this type of complex social interaction.
We automatically respond to social cues and facial expressions.
We can look at the world from another person's point of view.
We are predisposed to cooperate.
But all these things are so much a part of us, they're easy
to take for granted.
Unless you have autism, like Lisa Daxer.
Daxer, 27, is a biomedical engineering major
at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
And for her, things like reading faces
and understanding what's on another
person's mind are a struggle.
When Daxer was in elementary school, it became clear that although
she was better than her classmates at reading and math, they were
better at social interactions. "I realized that they had friends and
I didn't," Daxer says "I wonder what it would be like as
part of a unit of is very amazing to be able to see 'them' 

Toy Story III hits $1 Billion Mark!

Disney/Pixar's "Toy Story 3" is the gift that just keeps on giving at the boxoffice.

The animated sequel, which ranks seventh among all-time worldwide grossers, is expected to cross the $1 billion mark Friday, according to the studio, making Disney the first company to field two $1 billion blockbusters in the same year.

Earlier this year, Disney's "Alice in Wonderland," also crossed that line and currently stands in fifth place in the all-time worldwide rankings with $1.024 billion.

Disney has one other previous movie in the $1 billion club: 2006's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," which ranks fourth with $1.066 billion.

Thoughts on the end of the War in Iraq

"It's a sad but happy day. Sad because we were led into a war that should never have happened and happy that we have finally gotten the leadership it takes to get us out. History will show a period when the world needed leadership it did not happen and after many lives lost, we finally found the leadership necessary to remove us from it."—MoveOn member, Frederick, MD

"It's about time; however, the reality of this declaration is yet to be seen. The key word is 'Operations.' Combat Operations and 'Conflict' is clearly defined as two different things. This probably does not mark the end of U.S.—Iraqi 'Conflict.' I hope so...I'm optimistic; however, I am a realist! My prediction is this will not be the last day that a U.S. soldier loses his/her life in combat."—Iraq veteran, Texas

"Relief. Apprehension. We say one thing and then do another. Stop-loss could send recent Iraq vets to Afghanistan to participate in another unwinnable war that is costing us and has cost so much in ways far beyond the national deficit."—Family of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Sacramento, CA

"Sad, relieved, proud and fearful. Sad for all those who fought, are permanently injured, their families, and for those that have died...knowing this war should never have begun; sad for the destruction and continued tragedies that occur everyday in Iraq; Relieved that our combat is most likely over; Proud of our troops who served under terrible conditions and who are an example at Americans who are selfless and willing to give their all...President Obama has proven he can do the right thing when it comes to Iraq. But now we have to make sure he does the right thing in Afghanistan too. And we can't stop pressing until all of our troops are home."—MoveOn member, Woodbridge, CT

"GW Bush left such an incredible mess. President Obama is probably doing the best he can do. That said, I still find it all incredibly sad and demoralizing. And history repeats itself."—Family of Vietnam veteran, Columbus, OH