The Jennings blog has moved!
As of October 1, 2011 the Jennings Project blog has moved and joined forces with Constitution Daily, the Center’s daily digest of smart conversation on the Constitution. All new posts will be published there, so be sure to subscribe and follow Constitution Daily on Twitter. If you are interested in submitting a post to Constitution Daily, please email Stefan Frank at JenningsProject@constitutioncenter.org.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
2010 PJP FELLOW CHANEL LEE EXPLAINS THE COURT'S DECISION ON THE SALE OF VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES TO MINORS
You can read her entire post here.
Here is the headline from Tuesday morning's New York Times: "Minors Can Buy Violent Video Games, Justices Decide." Okay, that is sort of true. It relates to the Court's decision to overturn a California law that regulated the sale of certain violent video games to minors. California had fashioned the law in such a way that it would mimic laws limiting the sale of pornographic literature to children, hoping that the Court would carve out a new class of exceptions to First Amendment protection around violent expression much as it has regarding obscenity. Instead, the Court demurred, determining, 7-2, that the Constitution protects the sale of even offensively violent "speech" to minors. Two justices dissented.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Why? What could the Constitution have to say about something so personal and private? Read the First Amendment, or, more precisely, read it the way that six justices read it. The Vermont law restricted a practice called "detailing" where drug companies buy prescription information showing them which doctors most prescribe which kinds of medicine. This information, gathered by data mining companies who pay the pharmacies for access to their records, could still be sold or otherwise made available to journalists and insurance companies, just not drug companies. So, argued Justice Anthony Kennedy, the law was in fact restricting the use of truthful information based upon the identity of the speaker (a drug company) and the contents of its speech (pharmaceutical records) and that, to Justices Kennedy, Sotomayor, Thomas, Alito, Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts was enough to overturn the law. “If pharmaceutical marketing affects treatment decisions,” Kennedy wrote, “it does so because doctors find it persuasive. Absent circumstances far from those presented here, the fear that speech might persuade provides no lawful basis for quieting it.”
Friday, June 24, 2011
First, there was “Internet bullying.” Now, increasingly, we are facing "Internet mobbing." After the riots that followed the Vancouver Canucks defeat in the Stanley Cup hockey finals, a plethora of still pictures, home movies and cell phone snapshots posted on the Internet gave everyone the opportunity to be a detective. Who did it? Look, I know him! He's the water polo guy! And look over there, she's my office mate from work!
There is no denying that the rise of cell phone cameras, Tweets on Twitter and Facebook postings has given law enforcement new and invaluable tools for discovery and tabloid newspapers an unending source of material (just ask the disgraced Anthony Wiener), but you have to ask yourself, are we witnessing the return of a primitive, even barbaric, form of justice, one that provides plenty of satisfaction to those who enjoy watching public humiliations but which feels more like an electronic version of an Iranian town square stoning in the way that it skirts the principles of fairness and decency?
Thursday, June 23, 2011
IGNORING THE WAR POWERS ACT? PJP PARTICIPANT BRUCE ACKERMAN SAYS OBAMA, WHO CRITICIZED BUSH, IS SETTING A WORSE PRECEDENT FOR ARBITRARY EXECUTIVE POWER THAN HIS PREDECESSOR
In an interesting Op-ed in the New York Times, Yale Law professor and PJP participant Bruce Ackerman argues that President Obama's decision to join in the NATO air strikes on Libya has been unfaithful to the War Powers Act of 1973 -- in particular, the part of that Act which requires the president to get Congressional approval of military actions within 60 days of Congressional notice (more than 90 days have already passed). Ackerman points the finger at White House counsel Robert Bauer whose office rejected the arguments of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel after it declared that Obama needed to adhere to the Act's reporting and approval procedures. Obama, he asserts, is following a dangerous precedent established by his predecessor, President George W. Bush, whose White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, led an "ad hoc war council' that put pressure on the Office of Legal Counsel to approve the "torture" of terrorism suspects: when the OLC doesn't give you the interpretation you want, the president simply declares his own interpretation of the law, an abuse of executive power.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
The book is called "The Secret Wisdom" and, well, it's provocative. Here are some of the claims made by its author, the enormously successful playwright and essayist, David Mamet...
“America is a Christian country. Its Constitution is the distillation of the wisdom and experience of Christian men, in a tradition whose codification is the Bible.”
“the Israelis would like to live in peace within their borders; the Arabs would like to kill them all…”
“The federal government is merely the zoning board writ large…”
Affirmative Action is “as injust as chattel slavery,” comparable to Japanese internment and the Dred Scot decision
And here are a few reactions from a New York Times review by Vanity Fair contributing editor Christopher Hitchens:
"This is an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason."
"…you will not be surprised to know that Mamet regards global warming as a false alarm, and demands to be told “by what magical process” bumper stickers can “save whales, and free Tibet.” This again is not uncharacteristic of his pointlessly aggressive style: who on earth maintains that they can? If I were as prone to sloganizing as Mamet, I’d keep clear of bumper-sticker comparisons altogether."
"Mr. Beck is among those thanked in Mamet’s acknowledgments for helping free him from “the bemused and sad paternalism” of the liberal airwaves. Would that this were the only sign of the deep confusion that is all that alleviates Mamet’s commitment to the one-dimensional or the flat-out partisan."
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Responding to the Appeals Court decision referenced in the June 4 post by Jordan Lorence below, author Katherine Stewart's Op-ed in last Sunday's New York Times describes the situation at her own child's New York City school. Stewart writes that her child's school is just one of 60 in New York that are used for worship services, free of rent, in an attempt to not discriminate student "clubs" for their religious beliefs. She describes the plethora of New York public school church worship meetings as "the work of national 'church-planing' organizations attracted to New York by the combination of cheap space and the opportunity to save the city from its apparent godlessness." The recent decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals disallows such meetings as a violation of the religious establishment clause of the First Amendment. Stewart is the author of the forthcoming book, “The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children.”
Friday, June 10, 2011
THE SUPREME COURT’S UNANIMOUS VERDICT IN AL-KIDD SAYS IT ALL: THE VICTIMS OF POST 9/11 SUSPICION STILL CAN’T GET THEIR DAY IN COURT
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Jordan Lorence, attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, which represented the Bronx Household of Faith in a case heard before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals this term. The case was brought by the New York City Department of Education which sought to ban the church from holding "regular worship services" on public school property. Yesterday, the Second Circuit ruled against the church, arguing that while religious groups cannot be banned from meeting on school property, neither can they be allowed to conduct religious services there. Judge Pierre N. Leval, part of a three-judge panel, wrote that when services are conducted on school property “the place has, at least for a time, become the church,” adding that the city’s policy against services in the schools imposed “no restraint on the free expression of any point of view.” Rather, it applied only to “a certain type of activity — the conduct of worship services — and not to the free expression of religious views associated with it.” Judge John Walker dissented, arguing that the ban violated the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
In its annual poll of Americans' attitudes towards morally-charged subjects, the Gallup organization found that abortion rose in acceptance for the second year in a row (after hitting an all-time low in 2009.) The percentage of those who found abortion morally acceptable is now at 39 percent, still well below a majority. Among other constitutionally relevant issues that appeared on the poll, doctor-assisted suicide was the most divisive, with 45 percent finding it acceptable and 49 percent unacceptable. A full 62 percent were comfortable with stem cell research while only 12 percent found the cloning of a human being acceptable. You can view a summary of the findings here.