The Beginning of the End of Free Speech

I made the mistake of listening to the news again…well, at least I got a blog post out of it.

 This week, the Supreme Court (which now has a conservative majority, with John Roberts as chief justice and Samuel Alito on the bench) handed down two decisions that further undermined the American democracy.

In the first decision, the court decided to overturn a precedent set some years back. This precedent held that corporate and union funding of particular political candidates was not a form of free speech, and therefore was not protected by the First Amendment. Well, it was nice while it lasted. Now, corporations, unions, and interest groups can run as many advertisements as they want for a candidate, the only constraint being that they must not use the phrase “Vote for this candidate.” Somehow, I don’t think being unable to come out and say it explicitly is going to stop the corrupt corporate money from influencing the outcome of elections.

With this piece of legislation, some of my greatest fears have been realized. The automotive lobby will now have a much easier time trying to weed out potentially environmentally-conscious candidaes. The insurance lobby will be able to eliminate candidates who support universal healthcare. As if that wasn’t bad enough, now we’re going to be swamped by even more political advertisements than before. By the end of election season, I’m pretty sure I will have gouged my own eyes out.

The second decision to which I referred was, in my mind at least, a greater blow to American political freedoms. The supreme court upheld a decision by a lower court limiting the free-speech rights of students in cases where those rights contradict the policies of the student’s school. This followed on the heels of a court battle that erupted when a student displayed a banner reading “Bong hits 4 Jesus.”

To many people, this may seem completely insignificant. But to someone who was a public-school student not so long ago, this is a terrible blow. For the latter half of my school career, I became more and more annoyed at the serious suppression of the constitutional rights of young people. We were treated like second-class citizens, if we were considered citizens at all. We were continually subjected to meaningless and unfair rules. Every day, we were reminded that we didn’t have any right to free speech, or any right to peacably assemble. It was intolerable.

Now, admittedly, many students would, given these freedoms, simply make trouble. But it’s still not fair to suppress all the students, many of whom are politically conscious and actively want these rights. Now, though, the suppression has gotten even worse. Students are going to feel more and more like their school is a totalitarian prison, which I’m sure many of them already do. How is this conducive to education.

What’s worse, though, is the possibility of government-sanctioned silencing of what is often the most politically-active sector of a society: the young. The young are our only hope for change, for progress, but that isn’t going to happen. Not if we condition them to get used to a system in which they have no rights.

This may seem a bit extreme, and probably quite paranoid, but as usual, it’s just food for thought…

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Wikipedia: An Orwellian View

While I was browsing the internet, I began to realize that more and more search engines are putting the Wikipedia entries for the searched terms at or near the top of the list. This, combined with the rapidly growing popularity of Wikipedia, creates the possibility — in my mind, at least — for a tremendous Orwellian system of information manipulation.

Political campaigns and practical jokers have already demonstrated that false information can be introduced into Wikipedia, and can remain there for a significant amount of time. So what happens when Wikipedia is becoming more and more of a centralized repository for information? There will be tremendous political advantage to be had in manipulating the information contained therein. And so, like so many democracies over the ages, totalitarianism will become too tempting, and right beneath our noses, Wikipedia will turn into the Orwellian Ministry of Truth: a center for disinformation, benefiting whichever candidate happens to be at the forefront at the time.

 I’m aware that this is hardly likely, and that it’s an awfully paranoid thing to say, but as always, it’s just food for thought.

Happy Birthday to Me

Last Monday, June 4th, I celebrated my 19th birthday. It’s not until now, however, nine days later, that I thought to mention it in my blog. Then, a thought occurred to me: I can finally make up for the long gaps between my recent articles by writing a story, no matter how pointless…yeah, that’ll fool the readers. Well, it seemed like a better thought in my head.

 So now I’m 19. My age is finally a prime number again, although it’s no longer divisible by nine, and won’t be again until I’m 27. Darn. That’s all for the mathematical analysis of my age.

Somehow, I already feel like an old man, despite the fact that all the real old men around me keep telling me that my life has just begun. But, if I live for a hundred years, I’ve lived almost one-fifth of my life. And, after looking at some of my relatives, I’m not certain that I’ve got a hundred years…

I thought birthdays were supposed to be cheerful. I guess that ended when I was around 16 (the last time my age will be a perfect square until I’m 25).

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A New Kind of Paperboy

Well, it seems that the job application I turned in to the newspaper at my university (the University of North Carolina at Charlotte) a few months ago paid off. I’ve been in correspondence with someone at the paper for the last few weeks, and it seems that I’m soon to start as a staff writer! I had never expected that my first real job would actually be something I’m interested in, and am good at. I’d always expected that, like every other college student, I’d start my career at either a clothing store or a restaurant.

I’m ecstatic. A real writing job! Writing is one of my few talents, so its nice that this worked out…well, that it seems to be primed to work out…I don’t want to be too optimistic.

 Anyway, many things to do. Just wanted to keep my loyal readers informed.

Primordial Life

I was reading my latest Scientific American. I started off with a cover story, an article about a new theory on the origin of life. And for once in my life, I actually had something to add to their theory.

 Here’s the jist of the article: whereas, in the past, most theories about the origin of life had been based on the idea of the spontaneous generation of RNA (ribonucleic acid), which has the curious property of being able to copy itself under the right cirumstances, but is hugely unlikely to arise at random, the writers of the article propose that life actually may have begun as simple self-sustaining chemical reactions. For example, suppose that one of these primitive organisms consisted of chemicals A, B, and C. The organism takes X from the environment, and in a reaction, converts X to Y, releasing energy, and re-creating the initial reactants (this time in greater number). Such a chemical organism would be able to utilize energy and reproduce in the traditional sense, and does not require the highly unlikely spontaneous generation of RNA.

Later, while I was thinking about the concepts in the article, I began to wonder what might happen if two of these primitive metabolic organisms were to merge by accident. If there was any chance coupling of some of the reactions taking place in the individual organisms, there might be some benefit to be had in their union. Thus, the evolution of such organisms could take place at a very fast pace, and such unions might also help explain how metabolic reactions became so complex.

 I know you’re tired of hearing it, but I’m going to say it anyway: just food for thought…