Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Eve Snow

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Freedom of Speech

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I am not a constitutional law professional, just a citizen who has been a writer and a journalist for decades.

You'd think I would be all for "freedom of speech," and I am - with limitations.

I do not believe it is okay to say (or write) everything you think. This "right" was written into the law of the land in the United States at a time when people had morals and manners. We no longer have either, and the free-for-all that overlays all of the many cultures that make up the USA has made conversation an intangible and given way to ignorance and emotional sound bytes that overpower the language of reason. It's been a growing problem and one that the Internet has fostered.

We already have laws on the books that belie the "freedom of speech" rallying cry, anyway. Every government places limits on speech, even the US government.

For example, you can't slander someone without the risk of a lawsuit, for example. Slander means telling an untruth about someone that harms him or her. We have laws against defamation (false statements that harm an individual, corporation, religion, etc.) and legal action can be taken against those.

Companies are taking people to court over bad things written about them online. I've seen that happen here in my area.

Laws exist against hate speech, which is any use of words, gestures, or writings that incite violence. Our government also controls speech with obscenity and pornography laws, copyright and trademark, sedition (causing an insurrection), and other ways.
So there really is no "freedom of speech" as people proclaim it nowadays. The right to say what you want exists and generally one can say what one wishes without government indictment. You can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater (although these days maybe we should change that to "you can't yell "shooter" in a crowded area.").

In yesterday's paper, I read an article about a free speech limits test going before the Supreme Court. A woman obtained a protective order against her estranged husband, and on his Facebook page, he wrote that she should fold up the order and put it in her pocket and hope it stopped a bullet.

The issue is whether this exercise of free speech constituted a "true threat" to the woman at which it was directed.

The problem for me is that Facebook is not private. Friends of friends can see what you wrote. So this message was essentially shouted out into the public square. If this guy had said this privately to his best friend, venting his frustration and getting it off his chest, that's one thing, though it still wouldn't be a very nice thing to say. But he said this essentially to the world.

We no longer live in a society where we have distinction between private and public. With the loss of manners and morals, mentioned above, and the annihilation of public/private lines, we have a total breakdown in the civic discourse. People feel they have the right to say whatever they want, regardless of how hurtful and coarse it may be. The high-mindedness of mankind has reached a pinnacle not seen before in history, and it will ultimately decay our civilization. Unbridled speech and actions can only lead to chaos. That is why we have laws, to keep chaos from taking over.

Let me be clear - if this man had written his words in a private yahoo group, I doubt it would be going before the Supreme Court. But he chose a public forum.

This issue will become more and more germane as technology continues its inevitable creeping into our lives. I do not believe in censuring printed books - books just sit there, and one must take an action to pick up the book, open it, and read it, to be offended. Those actions need not be taken and a book can sit in a corner forever, completely ignored. But in a public forum - say out in the shopping mall where you can't yell "fire" - one cannot dismiss the words. One can't unhear hate speech. The same goes for public outlets such as Facebook. The hundreds or thousands can't "unsee" whatever was written. It's there and then one must deal with it.

If I were this woman's friend and I saw her estranged husband post something like what is mentioned above, I would feel like I would have to warn her. To me, in the context of the news article, that looks like a threat. And then it's possible the threat would revert to me. It becomes a scary place to be.

As our reading habits change and more and more of what we read and see is online, and available not by choice but instead forced upon us through social media outlets or in the guise of advertising, I think we would be wise to try to sort this out now, before it gets even more out of control.

Freedom of speech isn't just spouting off whatever comes to mind. It's wrapped up in many issues and concerns, and it doesn't stand alone.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday Stealing: Thanksgiving Meme

From Sunday Stealing

Thanksgiving Meme

(Thanksgiving Day is November 27 in the USA)

1. Are you celebrating Thanksgiving at home or elsewhere this year? With whom will you spend Thanksgiving Day?

A. The crystal ball is unclear on the answer to this question at the moment. 

2. What do you have for breakfast on Thanksgiving?

A. Same thing I have on other days.
3. Do you go to a Thanksgiving parade or watch one on TV?

A. Sometimes I watch the one on TV, but not every year. 

4. Do you serve appetizers, lunch, or snacks during the day?

A. We usually eat a light lunch.
5. What do you wear on Thanksgiving?

A. Clothes. 

6. What's your Thanksgiving table like -- do you use special plates/silver/glasses, etc? Do you have a centerpiece? A color scheme? Candles?

A. Generally Thanksgiving is not at my house. 

7. Do you serve buffet-style or family-style? What do you have to drink?

A. A mix.

8. Once you're at the table, do you say grace or a toast or does everyone go around and say what they're thankful for?

A. Not usually.

9. Do you have dessert right after the main meal or later on?

A. Depends on what dessert is and what time we finish eating.

10. What do you do with your leftovers?
A. Eat them.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday 9: The Main Event

Saturday 9: The Main Event (1979)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

*Confession: When I was a teenager playing guitar in a band, this was one of the songs we performed(except it was the short version). We played a good bit of disco, as it was the rage at the time. The bass player made this song rock, if I remember correctly.*

1) This is the theme from a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of boxing. Sam admits she's not crazy about boxing. What about you? Do you enjoy boxing, martial arts or wrestling?

A. No. I do, however, use Tai Chi in my exercise routine. I find it very relaxing to perform the movements. It will help my migraines and lower my blood pressure in 20 minutes.

2) If you went to a dance club on a Saturday night in 1979 or 1980, you might well have danced to this. What are your plans for this Saturday night?

A. To read a book while I sit beside my husband as he flips through the TV channels.

3) Gilda Radner was one of the original Saturday Night Live performers and in 1979, she parlayed her TV popularity into her own one-woman show on Broadway. Who is your alltime favorite SNL cast member?

A. Jane, you ignorant slut. (Jane Curtin is my favorite.)

4) Sally Little and Nancy Lopez were at the top of the LPGA  in 1979. Do you golf?

A. No.

5) The movie The Main Event co-starred Ryan O'Neal. He is better known for Love Story, and saying the line, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." When did you last apologize?

A. I apologize for everything. I say, "I'm sorry" if I have to ask a salesperson a question. So who knows.

6) O'Neal got his big break on the nighttime soap opera, Peyton Place. He played Rodney Harrington, the handsome golden boy that all the girls dreamed of dating. Tell us about your big high school crush.

A. When I was in high school, we were all in love with David Cassidy as Keith Partridge.

7) In researching this week's Saturday 9, Sam discovered that The Main Event is a popular name for sports bars all across the country. Do you enjoy sitting at the bar or do you look for a booth or table?

A. Table.

8) The Mane Event was the salon Sam went to for years. She switched when it got too hard to get Saturday appointments. As a consumer, what's more important to you -- convenience or price?

A. Convenience.

9) More than 50 years after her first million-selling album, Streisand recently had a #1 hit with her current CD, Partners. What's the last song you bought/downloaded?

A. Song of the Lonely Mountain, by Neil Finn (from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). Yes, I am a nerd.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday Thirteen

1. My Facebook page this morning is filled with photos of the big snow in Buffalo, NY, where they received 7 feet of snow. I feel for those folks. I hope they have good roofs on their houses.

2. My Facebook page is also full of political rhetoric, as it is every morning. I am seriously considering ridding myself of the political posts. It's a terrible way to set the tone for the day as there is seldom anything positive about politics. Maybe Facebook needs a timer setting so I could see the political posts later in the day.

3. Like a drum, baby, don't stop beating.

4. There is a subplot in the Extended Editions of The Hobbit movies that isn't being shone on the theatrical releases. I won't relay what it is, but I am intrigued as to how it will be explained in the final extended edition, which probably won't be released until next fall. (The last movie, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, is coming to a theater near you on December 17!)

5. The book The Book Thief is much better than the movie.

6. My bank switched hands over the weekend. My new bank's online access is a pain in the you-know-what. That is it say, it isn't working very well for me.

7. I can't believe another year is almost over. Time really does fly when you're an antique.

8. Yesterday a helicopter flew over, and as I have done since I was a small child, I stepped outside to watch it. I remember doing that at my grandmother's. We'd hear the tell-tale flap of the rotors and rush outside to be the first to spot it, and then watch it wing its way across the sky.

9. My grandmother had four young children in her charge when she was babysitting me - two of her own (I have an uncle who is a year younger than I am) and my brother and me. My grandmother had six children in all. My mother, who passed away in 2000, was the oldest. The other children are all still alive. My grandmother died in 2007.

10. My father's mother is still alive. She's 94 and lives in California.

11. When I think back on the Novembers I have lived through the one that stands out the most is the year I married. We celebrated 31 years this week. A long time to be married but it seems like only a week. A very full week, but only a week.

12. I don't *need* a new camera but I confess I have been looking at new ones. Something with a 50x zoom. I could zero in on a deer's nostril with a zoom like that.

13. Winter wouldn't be so bad if the wind wouldn't blow. Did we have this much wind when we were children? I don't recall it being so windy when I was young.

"Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind." - Bruce Lee

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 370th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.