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Member since: Sun Jun 5, 2011, 07:28 PM
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Been to the library lately?

I get to the library every few weeks or so. Often I'm picking up or dropping off a book for my SO, but I always check out the new arrivals, and generally end bringing something home for myself. And I just like walking around and seeing what's happening. The other day I decided to drive over to the new branch to check it out...

There are a LOT of kids! Some with parents, but most seem to have been dropped off or to have gotten there on their own. They sit at the tables in cliques and seem to be reading and studying together - socializing! - and as an old school library patron the degree of interaction always seems to annoy me a bit. Kids these days!

And, of course, there are the computers. There are quite a few still set up in isolating "study carols". Sometimes, as I stroll around, I guiltily peak at what's on the screen - often looks like job hunting, blogging and chatting, always a few games (Kids now days!) and, of course, homework research. But the big change here is that the patrons (young and old) are bringing in laptops and are sitting around all over the place connected in through the wifi. My son has been to "wifi parties" where the kids get together and sit around in the same room with their laptops connected together - I'm not sure I understand what's going on (probably the point) but maybe the wifi library kids are up to the same.

Downstairs is the video collection, the music collection and the juvenile section - I head upstairs to where the "new arrivals" are supposed to be shelved, and spot a glassed in room that has some "artifacts" on display. Through the glass I spot a very interesting artifact amongst the others - a CARD CATALOG! A sign on the door says its the "library of the county historical society". I figure the catalog is on display as a historical relic of the original library, so I pop in to take a look. I feign interest in the other displays, then ask about the card catalog. Nope, the man behind the desk informs me that it is a real, honest-to-goodness, functioning card catalog. The library system gives them space for their collection, but doesn't integrate it into the county's collection. So they do it the old fashioned way. I look up a few topics in the card catalog, just for old times sake. A tear forms in the corner of my eye.

The new arrivals are right next to the foreign language section. An elderly Asian couple are looking over the selection and when they give me a smile I try out my Chinese phrase on them -that's singular, I'm a one-trick pony - and then ask them to translate some of the titles for me. This is actually something that I used to bug folks about all the time, since I used to stop by and pick up books for my father in law when he was living with us. Someone with "local knowledge" would usually be looking over the selection and would help me pick out books that were on topics of interest to him. I couldn't do it myself!

Then I pursue the new arrivals. This is how I stay current, sort of a "slice of life" of what's new and interesting. On this occasion I pick up a history of Renaissance Faires and another about the "model minority" stereotype (links below).

Then I head out. I skip the check-out line and go through the self service kiosk. All of the books are tagged with RF IDs !!11!! You practically just walk out the door with them and they check themselves out as you leave! (Also, it makes it easy for that guy in the trench coat lurking around just outside the perimeter to id the [strike]communists[/strike], er, terrorists.)

On the way out, I head off the lobby over to the coffee shop and community room area. In the community room is a large, noisy and active crowd of kids and adults - I check it out and its a ROBOTICS competition. They have arenas set up for the robots to display their prowess and to compete in "task battles" against one another. All around the room are science fair type exhibits for each of the individual teams and robots. They are doing a bake sale to support the competition; I pick up a few cookies for the SO. And everywhere there are kids, kids, kids! Noisy, rambunctious, active and yet, strangely enough, very focused and on-task kids! Sheesh, kids these days!!!!



Was Citizens United Correct?

Perhaps I should not have been, but I was surprised at several recent posts that seemed to support the Citizens United decision based on what I presume to be first amendment absolutism. It has been pointed out that the first amendment protects freedom of the press, and "the press" certainly covers organizations, not just individuals. Was Citizens United the correct decision in support of first amendment rights? Are corporations people, my friend?

Corporations are chartered for specific purposes and their owners are granted significant privileges, notably limited liability, and in some cases non-profit status. Some are chartered specifically for religious purposes, and their owners receive some protection, for that reason, under the first amendment. Some are chartered specifically for the purpose of publishing news and political opinion, and their owner may receive some protection, for that reason, under the first amendment.

Many others are chartered for purposes other than religion or providing information to the public. For instance, selling soap or manufacturing, say, cars. These purposes are NOT protected under the constitution. Even providing entertainment, which sometimes gets a pass under the first amendment, is not, strictly speaking, protected.

In either case, the privilege of limited liability is a privilege, not a right. This privilege is granted by the government at its discretion to serve a public good and may be denied or revoked in the public interest. No one has the right to incorporate. The same may be said, of course, of tax-exemption

So here are some thoughts:

When a corporation is specifically chartered for the purpose of a religious or political agenda, or for the purpose of providing information and news to the public, it is reasonable to assume that the owners are aware of and approve of this purpose. Coupled with the specific protections afforded these activities by the first amendment, there is good reason to protect the owners' first amendment rights by providing some protection to the corporation.

When a corporation is chartered for some purpose other than one protected by the first amendment it isn't quite so reasonable to assume that the corporation speaks for the owners or that the owners approve of or support the corporation's political or religious positions and activities. Under these circumstances, protection is problematic, since it involves speaking on behalf of those owners who may NOT endorse or approve of the message or the activity. This then, would be a violation of the (perhaps minority) owners' rights to speak freely on their own behalf.

Under the second circumstance, it would be more than reasonable to make restrictions on an organization's public advocacy a condition for the privilege of limited liability. This privilege is granted by the government conditions may be placed on it. No one has the right to incorporate - regardless of the purpose or activity that is to be undertaken. Those owners who want to engage in religious or political speech as something other than the PRIMARY purpose of the organization should organize as a partnership and should assume liability for their economic activities. Under those circumstances, it is much more assured that all owners have made a considered choice and are in basic agreement with the positions and the activity itself.

This would ensure that first amendment rights are reasonably honored and that they are not abused by a plutocracy that is indifferent or even hostile to honest, robust public discourse.
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