Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rita Smith's actions ARE protected by First Amendment!

Captruing these colors was 0% my doing; all I did was hold my phone (Yes, I took this on a phone!) still and press a button.
The format for my first class was a bit different today than it is most days. Rather than review the Supreme Court cases we read the night before (we read six last night), today, we were given hypothetical court cases to discuss and debate as a class. The cases tied into the cases we had studied the nigth before, as they involved obscene material (sexual images, or movies at movie theaters), defamation (through lies) of public officials, and the freedom of the press to release top secret government documents. Because of the vagueness of what qualified as an obscenity and what didn't or what had artistic or literary value and what didn't, I did not participate very much in the obscenity cases simply because I was so confused about how to rule. It's not my fault; as we discussed, the confusion is the trouble about making rulings on obscenity cases. The case about defamation was tough for me because, on one hand, my instinct told me that people should not be able to say whatever they want about public officials, but, on the other hand, Donald Trump and Fox News would be in jail or paying hefty fines every day were this to be outlawed.
The panel on the right is what Fox News likes to tell America. This could not be further from the truth.

The fourth hypothetical case, though, was crystal clear to me. In this case, the Washington Post had obtained top secret US documents about an imminent attack by US troops on Canada to try to get some of Canada's resources of water, farmland and smart people (our teacher, Luke, is Canadian). The question facing the court (the class) was whether the Washington Post had the right to release these documents, and I gave definite "yes" on the basis that the role of the press is to help maintain a well-informed public and national health. The public needs to be informed if the United States is about to invade another nation, and, as Justice Douglas puts it, "Secrecy in government is fundamentally anti-democratic." The role of the government is to rule at the consent of the governed, and to withhold information from the public would be against the best interests of the public.
After our first class, I took my now-daily nap for an hour, woke up and went to lunch before going to my second class. In my second class, we got into groups for our debate on Thursday, and once in groups, went to the library to do research. Our group was given the case of Rita Smith, a San Francisco woman who lost a son to the war in Iraq. In protest, she joined a protest in the streets of San Francisco and burned an American flag. Nobody was injured by the fire, but Rita Smith was arrested for disorderly conduct. Our group, made up by THE best team of lawyers on campus (including Lenny, we were randomly chosen and ended up in the same group), will be representing Rita Smith in her civil suit against the state of California on the basis that her First Amendment rights were violated. I obviously can't give away what information or arguments we'll use to try to win the case, but I feel like our group is in pretty good shape. I'll give more details after the case is decided.
After leaving the library, I went up to my room for a little while and worked on this blog before meeting up with our cohort in front of Carman Hall. From there we walked to the subway and took the 1 down to Times Square, where we would transfer to a bus that took us to the Hudson River. Once there, we boarded a boat that would take us on a 2-hour cruise down the Hudson River, past the Statue of Liberty, around Lower Manhattan, up the East River, and then back. I had high expectations for the cruise, but my expectations were far exceeded by the experience I got from this. I'd say I have a considerably better-than-average sense of direction when I'm in New York, but seeing it from all directions today was a different experience. Not only was I able to get a better understanding of New York's layout and history (the tour guide was fantastic, extremely informative), the Cruise reaffirmed my strong desire to live in New York City. I'm not going to try too hard to make this seem very educational, though; I'll admit it, the cruise was super cool for entertainment purposes as well. It made for some amazing sightseeing, and it always feels great to be out over the water. An amazing experience. I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking.
New Jersey

I thought it was kinda cool how the sun was directly behind the statue of liberty. We were in this position for about 5 seconds.

Brooklyn Bridge (above, below left, below right)

Manhattan Bridge

Williamsburg Bridge

Queensboro Bridge

I just put this put twice because I like it.

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