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This essay discusses several national political issues which involve debate over basic constitutional ideals: (1) censorship of the Internet; (2) term limits for Congressmen; and (3) two aspects of racial discrimination: affirmative action and discrimination in sentencing in cases involving capital crimes.

The First Amendment provides that the state may not pass any law which abridges freedom of speech or freedom of association, which the Supreme Court has declared to be fundamental liberties. The Internet is a high speed telecommunications network which links tens of millions of computer users around the world. Access to the Internet is largely controlled by online service providers who connect the personal computers of their subscribers to the Internet through modems. The original development of the Internet was largely funded with federal funds --from the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation. One of the distinctive features of the Internet is its interactive nature, including Electronic Bulletin Boards (BBS), which "allows users to 'post' messages or pictures for others, read or view messages left by others and converse with other BBS users."

The contents of messages on the Internet are clearly speech, entitled to protection under the First Amendment. Belsie says that "the Internet is so new that no one knows how to categorize it, much less regulate it." What has initially drawn the attention of would-be regulators of the Internet is the display on it of allegedly pornographic materials. in U.S. v. Thomas, a California couple was convicted under a Tennessee obscenity law for showing on their BBS on the Internet images which were legal in California but which were adjudged obscene by a jury in Tennessee. Under the Supreme Court's interpretation of the obscenity exception to free speech, contemporary community standards are to be applied, a meaningless concept on the Internet which respects no boundari...

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