Weekly Round-Up #1: Snow, Snow, Everywhere, and Some Good Blogs, Too

It is a new semester, we have a new president, and I am here to present a new round of student blogs. This semester I am teaching UC’s course on Civil Liberties. Consequently, the students in the course this semester are blogging about various civil liberties topics of their choosing. We’ve got blogs about religion, healthcare, drone strikes, same-sex marriage, and more. You can find a list of the student bloggers here, and, as always, I’ll be positing the weekly round-ups on this site to discuss the students’ posts. As there are more student bloggers this semester than I’ve had in the past, I’ll try to keep the summaries of each post shorter than I used to, in order to keep these round-ups brief. I highly encourage you to check out the students’ actual posts on their blogs (linked to here, as well as in the round-up posts). If you feel so inclined, go ahead and leave the students a comment and engage these bright young minds in conversation. Now, on to the posts!

In that we are currently studying religion clause jurisprudence in our class, I have arbitrarily decided to start the round-up with the blogs about religion. Kaitlyn and Paul are focusing their blogs on religion this semester, and Dan touches on religion in his first post. Kaitlyn started off her blog this semester with a great primer on the religion clauses and an important case regarding each clause. Paul discusses Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, a 2004 Supreme Court case that challenged the use of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Paul explains what led to the case, how the Court addressed the issue, and his thoughts on how things could have played out had the facts been slightly different. He goes on to talk about the position of religion in the U.S. and our constitutional liberties around religion. Dan, in his post, discusses Trump’s executive order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. Dan also briefly discusses the firing of Sally Yates. All three of these posts discuss civil liberties issues around religion, and all three focus on different areas where these conflicts arise.
Both Jordyn and Laura discuss healthcare, and more specifically the Affordable Care Act. Jordyn provides a history of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), to provide context for President Trump’s actions that he has taken to aid the efforts to repeal the ACA. She then explains what Trump has done so far, and what he cannot do, with respect to the repealing of the ACA. She ends with her own thoughts on the role of healthcare, and providing healthcare, in our society. Laura is writing her blog about healthcare in the United States this semester, and the various civil liberties issues pertaining to healthcare. As a means of setting up this topic for her blog, her first post contains a primer on the ACA. She discusses what it does and does not do, as well as the legal and political developments and challenges the ACA has faced since its inception. These posts, collectively, serve as accessible introductions and explanations of what the ACA is, and the legal and political controversies surrounding it.

Although a separate topic, the issue of women’s rights and bodily autonomy, as of late, is often connected to the issue of health care. Both Erin and Taylor (returning bloggers from last semester!) talk about women’s rights in their posts. Erin writes about Roe v. Wade, the idea of bodily autonomy (especially for women), and Trump’s various problems with women. She further connects these topics to a discussion of Trump’s recently named Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch. Taylor begins her blogging foray into women’s rights issues by discussing Roe, Casey, and various recent efforts to limit women’s access to safe abortion options. Taylor’s post is thorough, informative, and impassioned.

Both Erin’s and Taylor’s posts about women’s rights address these issues through the context of the new Trump administration. Similarly, Adrian and Garrett introduce their respective blog topics, which has nothing to do with healthcare or bodily autonomy, through a similar lens. Adrian’s blog this semester is going to look at LGBTQ+ rights, including marriage equality. Towards that end, his first post looks at President Obama’s record on LGBTQ+ rights, and the uncertainty these rights now face under President Trump’s administration. As Adrian explains, this uncertainty includes the discussed (but not yet proposed) First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which many view as a direct attempt to limit LGBTQ+ rights. Garrett’s blog this semester will focus on the use of drones in military operations, and the implications for civil liberties in how these drones are used. His first post explains a bit about how and why the U.S. uses drones. Garrett, in his post, also addresses potentials issues and concerns that Trump’s presidency may provide with respect to the use of drones. This is all the more true, as Garrett points out, in light of Trump’s approach to politics and norms, but also from the way in which Obama’s use of drones was largely unaddressed and unregulated.

Grace, another return blogger, is going to be discussing race and the law this semester. Grace writes about the history of race in and at the Supreme Court. She looks at the justices themselves, as well as the slow progress towards a Court that stands up for various minorities, especially racial minorities. Grace uses this historical context to engage with current issues of race and the law, and the Court’s role in addressing these issues.

After religion, healthcare, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, drones, and race, how about something a bit lighter? Fortunately Elise is there for all of us. Coming off of her blogging experience last semester, and the Super Bowl, Elise finds a way to connect the Super Bowl with our class for her first blog post this semester. More specifically, Elise discusses the various civil liberty themes that ran throughout many of the commercials and Lady Gaga’s halftime performance.

Finally (in the sense that I have hit the end of the way I have grouped these students’ blogs), we come to our last three student bloggers. We have two returning and one new student bloggers, as I wrap up this round-up (try saying that five times fast) with a return to the First Amendment. Both Selma J. and Selma O. (our returning bloggers) are discussing free speech issues in their blogs this semester. Selma J.’s initial post this semester looks at the nature of truth and free speech in a democracy. She discusses broad principles and her own views. She then relates these topics to the now-rampant claims of “fake news,” and the role of journalism in a democracy. Selma O. introduces her blog topic, free speech, in her first post by discussing Texas v. Johnson and Tinker v. Des Moines. Selma uses these cases to articulate what the First Amendment speech protections actual protect, and the centrality of protecting potentially disruptive expression that is more than just speech. Efrain, in is blog, looks at free speech and freedom of the press issues. In his post, Efrain discusses Detroit Free Press, Inc. v. United States Department of Justice, a case coming out of the Sixth Circuit that is currently on the Supreme Court’s docket. The case involves a Freedom of Information Act request for mugshots of police officers charged with various crimes, and broader questions of what and whose information can be released to the press to be printed.
These posts are all informative, well-constructed, and engaging. Again, go give them a read. Based on these initial offerings, I think this is going to be a great semester to follow these students.


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