Thursday, February 03, 2005

It's history, dude

Linda Campbell, a former colleague and a good friend, references the item that recently got us going the other day. A recent survey finds a poor understanding among high school students of the First Amendment.
Campbell writes:
It's worth noting that the study found 70 percent of the students agreeing that musicians should be allowed to sing songs with lyrics that others might consider offensive.
In other words, they understand that the First Amendment protects their right to hear Green Day and 50 Cent as well as Ashlee Simpson and Hilary Duff (subject, of course, to parental approval).
Do they realize that the First Amendment is about holding a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting in the gym as well as being able to watch South Park?
It's about researching STDs online and reading Judy Blume and attending concerts without government interference.
The First Amendment covers dress codes, city curfews and graduation speakers. It's about how violent video games can be and what words exchanged in a hallway constitute bullying.

The entire column is here.

Ink-stained and ham-fisted

During last night's State of the Union address a few members of Congress dipped their fingers in ink to express solidarity with Sunday's voters in Iraq.
Bob Dart of Cox News reports:
The salute to the voters in Sunday's Iraqi election was organized by Rep. Bobby Jindal, president of the freshman class of lawmakers.
"We all watched with joy as Iraqis dipped their fingers in ink and held them high, proudly proclaiming to the world that they had voted," recalled Jindal in a "Dear Colleagues" letter coordinating the congressional action. He provided the purple ink for both Republicans and Democrats.
"This symbolic gesture will tell Iraqis, and the world, that we believe in their cause and will stand beside them and all peoples who embrace freedom," said Jindal, the president of the House freshman class. "It's been said that partisanship stops at the water's edge. Let us again show that to be true by joining together in this symbolic gesture."

As symbolic gestures go, this is one idea that should have been forgotten. Let's not cheapen the real bravery of Iraqis who voted Sunday under dangerous circumstances.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

SocSac stats

Twenty-three-point-eight percent of the voting age population in Alabama's 3rd Congressional District is a beneficiary of Social Security. This and other Social Security facts can be found at this useful site.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

First Amendment?

A story in Monday's USA Today finds that:
One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, according to a survey being released today.
The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get “government approval” of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.

We'd suggest that those students could use some firming up in the history and civics departments, specifically focusing on the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment.
Sadly, we suspect a fair number of their parents feel the same way.
The First Amendment Center's most recent survey reports:
"The 2004 survey found that just 30 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement, 'The First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees,' with 65 percent disagreeing. The nation was split evenly, 49 percent to 49 percent, on that same question two years ago, in the survey following the '9/11' attacks," said Gene Policinski, acting director of the First Amendment Center.

Alright class, let's review:
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.

A beating

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is trying his best today to defend our recent flirtations with torture. His real cause is defending Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales.

Cornyn, who fills the seat left vacant when Phil Gramm retired in 2002, is a fine water-carrier for President Bush.

We think we just heard the senator say that what is wanted is more rights for terrorists than are afforded to American citizens. Uh, what?

Cornyn is playing a shameful game. What we already know is damning.

Gonzales and others in the Bush administration have dismissed basic conditions of the Geneva Conventions and other treaties outlining humane treatment of all prisoners.

They looked into ways to skirt torture prohibitions.

A pattern of prisoner abuse has been detailed in places like Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The sources reporting this abuse come from the International Red Cross, the FBI and the CIA.

That's what we know today. What will we know tomorrow? Does Sen. Cornyn care?

A human face on budget woes

The Montgomery Advertiser does a good job putting a human face on Alabama's budget shortfall. "Mary Parks is at risk," is a long but good read explaining what we face as the 2005 Legislature gets started. The story is here.
Here's an excerpt:
With no talk of tax increases in the 2005 regular session, the prospect of further cuts in state services looms large. For 93-year-old Montgomery resident Mary Parks, a third year of spending cuts could mean more than inconvenience. Physically disabled, Parks cannot prepare meals for herself, and the state-funded program that provides her with a hot lunch each day is already reeling from previous budget cuts.