Corporate Free Speech Reigns Supreme

As part of HeadCount’s “What’s Your Issue?” campaign, we publish regular updates on each of six issues. The following is our latest Personal Liberty update.

What does the New Year have in store for personal liberty issues?

So far, we've seen the approval of an airport security measure that not only wants to see you naked, but can keep the picture and send it electronically. Google won't be G-chatting with China at the moment and unfortunately for Willie Nelson, smoking pot is still against the law.

* A landmark decision by the Supreme Court has some cheering free speech and others waving goodbye to campaign finance reform. The Supreme Court's decision to allow corporations to spend freely in political campaigns has overturned nearly a century of policies prohibiting such spending. Interestingly, the decision claims that corporations and special interests have the same right to free speech as any other American, putting the U.S. Constitution in the way of any reforms congress may want to make. Think of the saying, "put your money where your mouth is." The difference is corporations have much bigger mouths.

* Google is one company that is certainly putting its money where its mouth is. After Chinese hackers tried to access the Gmail accounts of human rights activists working in China, Google decided to stop censoring search engine results on and possibly pull out of China entirely. It's a move that makes a strong free speech statement at the expense of possibly losing the largest cell phone market in the world and harming ties between the U.S. and China.

* Take a picture why don't you? It will last longer! Approved by President Obama after the Dec. 25 "underwear bomber" incident, that's exactly what some full body scanners at airport security checks will do. The new x-ray scanners not only see through clothing, but store and have the ability to send any images they take, something that the TSA had assured the public the machines wouldn't do.

* In his State of the Union address, President Obama has called for a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy blocking openly gay people from serving in the military. This week, the Pentagon began tackling the issue stating that the change must come gradually. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen said, "I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

* And just in case you were wondering - no, marijuana isn't legal yet. Just ask longtime stoner and country musician Willie Nelson who had his tour bus busted again. But this November, California and Oregon are leaving the issue to the voters, poising these west coast states to become the first in the nation to legalize and tax pot for recreational use by adults 21 and over.

So that's all folks. Get the latest headlines daily on Twitter or visit the Personal Liberty page to learn about staying free. If you want to try a little democracy in action, email your Senators and Congressional reps.