Posts Tagged ‘First Amendment’

Real World Graduation, Question 96: Setting the Stage

RealWorldGraduation_Question_96_Setting_the_Stage   <– PDF

Consider these two fictional newspaper stories.

Ex-County Executive Gets Jail Time for Multiple Felonies

David S. Ramsey, former Republican County Executive of Hamilton County, Arkansas, received an unusually light sentence of 8 years and 2 months in a federal prison for many sensational crimes, among which are (unsurprisingly) witness intimidation, mail fraud, and bribery.

Ramsey’s defense team presented a bizarre argument for probation, claiming that Ramsey had spent many years as a public official, and was known as “a good husband and father that had made some serious mistakes but was sincerely repentant for his actions”.   Prosecutors had demanded that Ramsey be sentenced to the maximum 30 years as allowed for these three convictions.  But U. S. District Judge Paula Wilson, who willfully ignored the guidelines, sentenced the former Republican politician to a shorter term that is in fact less than one-third of the maximum.   Ramsey will also have to pay a $100,000 fine, less than one years pay from his former $110,000 salary, and will also have to pay a paltry $250,000 in restitution.

Ramsey, 65, had been a state representative for the township of Richmond.  When Democratic County Executive Sheila Watson was killed in a tragic automobile accident, Republican Ramsey seized the opportunity presented by the vacancy, and took over her office in a special election in 1993.  He was accepted by the voters during a few of his early years in office, winning elections in 1994 and 1998 with about two-thirds of the vote.  Due to a curious quirk in the law, even though he will be in jail for multiple felony convictions, Ramsey will continue to receive his $75,000 annual pension throughout his prison term. Wilson was appointed to the bench by Republican President Richard Nixon.


Ex-County Executive Receives Sentence

Former Delaware County Executive George F. Dunaway was sentenced to ninety-eight months in federal prison in a questionable corruption case.

Prosecutors had demanded that Mr. Dunaway be sentenced to 30 years, technically the maximum allowable for convictions of this type. Dunaway’s defense team respectfully petitioned the judge for probation.  U. S. District Court Judge Sandra McMillan rejected the plea for leniency from the public servant’s legal team, ordering Mr. Dunaway to pay a heavy $100,000 fine and imposed an additional harsh requirement to pay a quarter of a million dollars in restitution, in addition to the long prison sentence.

Mr. Dunaway was convicted last year of mail fraud, bribery, and witness intimidation in a trial of questionable legitimacy.   His defense team noted that Dunaway had been a long-time public servant who was “a good husband and father …  who was sincerely repentant for his actions”.  Tragically, Mr. Dunaway will be 73 years old by the time he is released from custody.

Dunaway (D) was a well-known state representative from Marlboro Heights who ran successfully for County Executive in a 1993 special election upon the death of then-Executive Thomas P. Randolph (R) in a car accident.  He became wildly popular public official, winning re-elections in 1994 and 1998 by overwhelming 66% majorities in both races.  As County Executive, Mr. Dunaway’s annual salary was $110,000 per year, and he will justly continue to receive a $75,000 annual pension for his service.  Judge McMillan was appointed to the U. S. District Court by Democratic President Jimmy Carter.

Which of the following is true, based on these two stories:

a)   Judges appointed by Democratic Presidents tend to give higher sentences because they are tough on crime

b)   Republican judges find a way to help other Republicans convicted of crimes

c)   Ramsey should have received the full 30 years because he took advantage of someone’s death

d)   Prosecutors in the Dunaway case attempted to trick Judge McMillan by citing technicalities, which could have resulted in an unfair sentence for Dunaway. Fortunately, McMillan was smart enough not to fall for the tricks.

e)   Dunaway did not have the benefit of an adequate defense

(The answer is on p. 3 of the PDF.)

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Real World Graduation: Question 62: Atheist Persecution

RealWorldGraduation_Question_62_AtheistPersecution   <– PDF

A certain city has experienced a large influx of people who have embraced a hatred of Christianity. They claim to be atheists who claim to reject the concept of God and all religions, but in practice, only seek to offend Christians, and to a lesser extent Judaism.  They never have an unkind word for Moslems, Buddhists, Sikhs, Wiccans, or Hindus.  The atheists have distributed leaflets against “all religion”, but only single out Christian traditions as being evidence of evil, hypocrisy, or ignorance.  The Christians in the community are subjected to the tirades of atheists in many public places, and even on public property.

The atheist groups have become increasingly aggressive, up to the point of calling Christians names on the streets, demonstrating in front of churches during services, and occasionally disrupting a service by physical intrusion. What should the Christians of this community do in response?

a) Appeal to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for their help in opposing the atheists, or hire lawyers and sue the city directly in order force the city to enact an ordinance that restrains the activities of the atheist groups.

b) Close all the churches.

c) Organize and stage counter-demonstrations whenever they find a group of atheists.

d) Appeal to the Civil Rights Commission or other federal government agencies for help against the atheists (since they are violating the rights of Christians).

e) Both a) and d) are viable options.

(The answer is p. 2 of the PDF.)

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Posted in Bill of Rights, critical thinking, First Amendment, Real World Graduation, U. S. Constitution | No Comments »

Real World Graduation: Question 57: Talk Shows

RealWorldGraduation_Question_57_Talk_Shows  <– PDF

You are watching a talk show on TV. The host is conducting an interview with three guests.  Each of them, including the host, gives their view on the topic at hand.  You are trying to determine which of the four people on the show is most likely to be correct about the issue being discussed.  Which is the most efficient method to determine who is correct?

a) The host is correct because it’s their show, and they are not allowed to lie on TV

b) The person who looks most like a nerd is probably the smartest of the four, so they are most likely to be correct.

c) The most attractive person is probably correct because people like attractive people, and they likely were told the correct answer in advance.

d) If a government official is part of the discussion, then they are likely to be correct.

e) If a member of the clergy is part of the discussion, then they are most likely to be correct.

(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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Real World Graduation #50: The Media

RealWorldGraduation_Question_50_The_Media   <– PDF

Suppose a famous nationally-distributed newspaper publishes a news article. This particular story is about a series of arsons and burglaries committed by specific persons, who are named in the story.  It is based on information provided to the newspaper by the local police department.  This information was provided to the newspaper editors because he is on friendly terms with officials at the police department.     Because this newspaper is regarded as the standard for integrity, its’ story is picked up by other newspapers, and then by various radio and television stations.  The broadcast and cable television networks accurately repeat the story in their broadcasts, with full audio and video “dramatic re-creations” of the events described in the story.

A few days later, the truth came out. The police officers who provided the information to the newspaper had lied under orders from their superiors in the police department.  The officers knew that the subjects in the story were innocent, but obeyed the chief’s order to relay the information to the newspaper.   The persons named in the story were in fact completely innocent; the upper echelon of the police department held a personal grudge against them because they were frequent critics of the department.  The newspaper editors did not know the people in the story were innocent, but did not investigate to verify the information.  They were happy to go ahead and publish it although unverified because the subjects in the story held political views contrary to those of the official position of the newspaper.  This story was also widely distributed on the internet, including all of the “social networking” sites.  The subjects of the article were libeled, slandered, and publicly vilified until they were completely exonerated by the court.  Unfortunately, they experienced considerable loss of income and legal expenses.  The Police Chief who created the false allegations, and the officers who carried out the politically-motivated orders were subsequently fired.  The editors at the newspaper were all subsequently given raises and promotions.  But the public was misled and misinformed all along, and some still believe the people mentioned were guilty, since the initiating newspaper never was required to issue a formal retraction or apology.  What should be done to prevent this kind of attack upon innocent people and the spreading of false information to the public?

a) Implement qualification controls to prevent inaccurate reporting, such as:

1) All journalists, editors, and commentators shall require a journalism license, to be renewed annually;

2) Persons who are not licensed journalists shall be prohibited from publishing in any format (except for works clearly labeled as fiction).

b) Implement reasonable content controls to prevent political bias, such as:

1) All newspaper, magazine, and printed publications shall be reviewed for news relevance and censored if appropriate, including a prohibition on “editorial opinion”;

2) Radio and TV broadcasts shall be subject to the same controls, except for live sporting events (without play-by-play).

c) Implement technological controls in order to reduce the occasions under which this type of crime could occur, such as:

1) Manufacture and possession of high-speed printing presses (above a certain number of pages per hour) shall be prohibited;

2) Manufacture and possession of broadcast equipment, including cameras, microphones, and lighting systems for studios shall be controlled by suitable authorities, to be released to users when required.

3) Social networking sites shall be prohibited from linking to news articles;

4) The internet shall be regulated as a public utility.

d) Implement capacity controls in order to reduce the magnitude of crimes when they do occur, such as:

1) Newspapers shall be restricted to publishing once per month, with a maximum page count based on community population;

2) Magazines shall be published once per year with a page count limit proportional to the number of paid subscribers;

3) Radio and television broadcast talk show hosts shall be restricted to one five-minute segment per month, to make room for greater diversity in broadcasting.

e) Some combination of the above actions.

(The answer is on p. 3 of the PDF.)

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