Monday, July 2, 2012

Salsa Dancing and Pentagon Papers

The first Monday back - sounds painful, right? Not for me! I woke up in good spirits and in a very political science mood. After much confusion, I called AP services and was ecstatic to learn that I scored a "3" on my AP United States History exam. I studied very hard for the exam and finding out my score made me even more anxious to get to class. One of the students in my class got a "5" on the AP United States History exam, so we congratulated each other and had a brief talk about U.S. History. I knew the day was off to a very good start.
Over the weekend, we read four Supreme Court cases that dealt with the issue of "protected freedom of speech." There are three ways Americans got civil liberties:
  • Bill of Rights
  • 14th Amendment 
  • Incorporation 
We had a small lecture about this before discussing the Supreme Court cases:
  • Gitlow v. New York - Mr. Gitlow published a communist manifesto and distributed it throughout the United States. However, he was simply stating his opinion about a communist uprising, although this could have prompted one. There was no evidence shown in the trial, but Mr. Gitlow was convicted anyways. The legal questions and answers for this case are: 1) Does the 14th Amendment apply to speech protection? (Yes) and 2) Should Mr. Gitlow's specific freedom of speech be protected? (No) 
  • Whitney v. California - The California Criminal Syndicalism Act prohibited anybody to knowingly become a member of any organization that advocated syndicalism, but mainly communist organizations. Anita Whitney had affiliated with the Communist Labor Party and was taken to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court drew a line between freedom of speech and expression of conspiracy. The legal question and answer for this case is: Did the California law violate the 14th amendment due process rights by abridging speech? (No) 
  • Dennis v. United States - Eugene Dennis was he General Secretary of the United States Communist Party, which generated pro-Communist revolution materials. Dennis wanted to organize and then teach groups on how to overthrow America's capitalist government, which violated the Smith Act. The legal question and answer for this case is: Does the Smith Act violate the 1st Amendment or other portion of the Bill of Rights? (No)
  • Brandenburg v. Ohio - Mr. Brandenburg was a Ku Klux Klan leader who asked a reporter to film a KKK rally. During the rally, KKK members were fully dressed, burned a cross, demanded all Jewish persons to return to Israel, called African-Americans derogatory names, and threatened to enact revenge against the government if they didn't recognize "white supremacy." The reporter filmed everything and then sent it to television stations. Brandenburg was charged and convicted. The legal question and answer for this case is: Does the Ohio Law violate Brandenburg's 1st amendment rights via the 14th amendment due process? (Yes) The Ohio criminal syndicalism act was later declared invalid. 
After the morning session I got lunch with friends and then went back to my dorm to start reading the next set of cases. The afternoon session was great; we got to sit back and watch two very interesting and gripping films.

  • The First Amendment Project - This film was hilarious; it depicted the Fox v. Franklin debacle. Mr. Franklin was in the midst of publishing a novel that was filled with political satire, and when the cover was released, Fox News was furious to see that Bill O'Reily was on the cover and being branded as a liar. During the movie, Mr. Franklin holds a press conference pretty much making fun of the whole ordeal. Fox launched a lawsuit against Franklin, claiming that the usage of the term "Fair and Balanced" on the cover was unfair. Over the next couple of months, Fox and Franklin engaged in a nasty war of words. However, Franklin got the last laugh by winning in court, seeing as though the judge stated that Fox's lawyer argued a weak case. 
  • The Most Dangerous Man in America - Most students can't sit still throughout an hour-and-half film, but this film kept my eyes on the screen the entire time. I was completely fascinated and didn't want to revert my eyes for fear of missing any information. The documentary focused on the life of Daniel Ellsburg, the Pentagon employee who made copies of the top-secret "Pentagon Papers" and leaked them to the New York Times in an attempt to stop the Vietnam War, reveal how Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, AND Johnson administrations had masked their true intentions about Vietnam to the public, and show how the Nixon administration was willing and ready to continue the tradition. The beginning of the film gave a brief introduction about Ellsburg's life but then moved on to his work in the Pentagon with the Johnson administration. His support for the Vietnam War decreased tremendously after a trip to Vietnam, his realization that the war was a lost cause for Americans, and his horror that American officials were willing to lie to the public by saying that the war effort was going by "fantastically." Ellsburg and his friend Daniel Russo, the president of RAND, found the Pentagon Papers, which revealed America's twenty year span of Vietnam policy. Ellsburg made several copies of the papers, even enlisting his children's help in xeroxing and cutting off "Top Secret" on the top of the papers. He and Russo leaked them to the NY times and seventeen other newspapers. The government tried to stop this publication but failed, as it violated 1st amendment rights. President Nixon was absolutely furious, as could be told in the recordings played over the course of the film (I found it slightly amusing the Nixon recorded himself). Ellsburg and his family went into hiding for 13 days after the leak, but he then surrendered to the public. Nixon ordered the break-in of Ellsburg's psychiatrist to obtain his file, which was revealed during Ellsburg and Russo's trial. The revelation of this led to an even wider investigation of the Watergate break-in. All charges against Ellsburg and Russo were dismissed, and Nixon resigned not soon after. 9 months after Nixon resigned, the Vietnam War ended. I thought of Daniel Ellsburg as a hero, a man who was willing to risk his life and spent the rest of it in prison to end a war and bring awareness to the country. 
After class, we had a meeting with Ms. L, and I'm so excited for the Boat Cruise tomorrow and the trip to Coney Island on the 4th. When the meeting was over, I had dinner before going back to my dorm to relax, sleep a little, and read more cases. Around 8, I started to get ready for Noche de Sabor, which was an on-campus fiesta in the Gazebo. There was lots of dancing and food. I went with Rowland, Morvarid, and Brittany, Lenny, Morvarid's suitemate Demi, and Lucas. I had a fantastic time; it was a great way to enjoy the eat, kick back, dance, and eat some salsa!

A little blurry, but before the party started!
Tres amigas (:
Morvarid and Demi!
Demi and I
Dre Dre and Momo!
Brittany and Morvarid
Sombrero time...having fun!
Mama Momo!
Rowland and I
(From left to right) Nancy, Khadijah, Talia, and I
After the party, I went back to my floor. I spent some time talking with Aurea, but later enjoyed the floor movie night. We had pizza and ice cream and watched 21 Jump Street, which was hilarious. I had a great night and can't wait for what's ahead.

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