Weekly Round-Up #8: Timely Posts Delivered Not-on-Time OR Still Catching Up, MPSA Edition

Hello again, dear reader. I was hoping to have this post up several days ago, but, alas, here we are. As was chronicled in the previous round-up, I was in Chicago for the Midwest Political Science Association’s annual conference (go ahead and ask me about Kennedy and dignity, I am ready to talk your ear off about it, or perhaps provide you with some light reading on the topic), which just means I have been scrambling to catch up on the work I missed while gone. Like writing this post. Which I’m doing now. Also, I have just made this round-up way more about me than it should be (whoops!). So, on with the show! The posts for this last week were, unsurprisingly, great. The student bloggers have all really found their voice, and many of them wrote this round of posts about contemporary issues regarding civil liberties in America.

Obligatory Palmer House photo; it would not be MPSA without one

Erin’s post for this round is an incredibly thoughtful, well-articulated exploration of the right to privacy in a digital age. She discusses various privacy concerns that arise from living at a time where so much of our personal information is online and susceptible to unwanted access from anywhere in the world. This is a great post, and should be read by all. This issue, in light of recent congressional developments, is only going to get more important.

Efrain also looks at privacy concerns when he writes his post about United States v. Jones (2012) a case questioning the use of GPS tracking devices, warrants, and expectations of privacy. Efrain explains Scalia’s majority opinion as well as Alito’s concurrence regarding how these opinions treat privacy and technology.

Laura writes her post about Christian cost-sharing groups for medical expenses. I found her post to be incredibly informative because I had never actually heard of these groups. If you, like me, are unfamiliar, than hopefully you will find her post as informative as I did. These groups are ACA complaint while working both with and partially outside of the standard healthcare system, all while imposing fairly strict restrictions on beneficiaries.

I still don’t think I’m fancy enough for this place

From here we move into posts that, like so much right now, relate to President Trump. In fact, we have a trio of posts that look at different topics related to Trump, politics, and civil liberties. Dan returns to the issue of President Trump’s travel ban. Having examining the legal challenges to the ban, Dan now turns to the question of the offered explanation for the ban: security. Dan discusses the way the ban is, and is not, related to notions of security. Selma J. puts some of President Trump’s attacks on the media in context of free speech and some of our founders’ ideals around speech and the press. She talks about libel, the president’s assault on the media, and protections for the media. Jordyn addresses Trump’s lack of experience in politics as it relates to his recent attempts at governing. She compares Obama and Trump, and indicates how a lack of awareness of how the government functions and how politics work are hampering Trump’s attempts to achieve his agenda.

To avoid Trump having all the fun, Taylor and Elise wrote their posts about the vice president and the secretary of education, respectively. Taylor reacts to Mike Pence’s recent comments about his refusal to ever eat alone with a woman that is not his wife. Taylor explains the many ways in which this is problematic, not least of which is the discrimination inherent in this decision. She also explains the ways in which this kind of thinking perpetuate discrimination against women and leads to fewer promotions or other career opportunities. Elise returns to discussing Betsy DeVos and school choice. Elise discusses the problems with school choice as it relates to constitutional rights to equality. She also puts the conversation in the broader context of the goals and purpose of education, especially public education.


Following from the interjection of faith into politics (OK, I might have been stretching a bit with that transition), Kaitlyn and Paul both address contemporary, ongoing issues surrounding religion and the law. Kaitlyn writes about Kentucky’s new “religious freedom bill,” which was passed in response to a public school’s choice to remove a Bible verse from a production of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Kaitlyn discusses the bill, its aims, and how it relates to current understanding and practices around religious freedom in the United States. Paul’s review of religion in American law and society has reached Hobby Lobby. Paul explains the issues that gave rise to the case, as well as the ruling in the case. He puts these developments in context of shifts in American politics and our understanding of religious freedom.

This leaves us with two incredibly important, timely reflections on broader issues of rights and social practice. Both Selma O. and Grace address what happens when we embrace free speech, especially speech that is in some way discriminatory towards other groups. Selma writes about hate speech in her post this round. She explains why hate speech is a problematic issue, legally and politically speaking, to address. Selma addresses the damage that hate speech can do, even as it is hard to specifically indicate the damage done in many cases. She also addresses the principles underlying attempts to regulate hate speech. Grace addresses how “freedom of speech” is not equal for all in a meaningful way in the United States. She addresses the harmful effects of protecting discriminatory ideas and speech, all the way up to the Court’s acceptance of hate speech as forms of protected speech (or at least striking down attempts to regulate hate speech as constitutionally problematic).

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