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New I hate it when they're right
[link|http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19415033/|Roberts court changes campaign rules]

I do agree with the majority but it galls me

A
Play I Some Music w/ Papa Andy
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New "Money talks!"
Alex

When fascism comes to America, it'll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross. -- Sinclair Lewis
New What makes them right?
Tie goes to the speaker? What makes this a tie? Based on this ruling, any group can create an issue ad that doesn't talk mention candidates but references a web site that is nothing but an advocacy site for one candidate, containing a message that wouldn't be allowed on the air. Since the advocacy portion of the message is not part of the commercial, it is ok? It rather effectively guts the law.

Intent of the message had no role in this decision, according to Roberts, but intent certainly seems to have played a big part in the affirming the legality of the suspension of the poor Alaskan high school kid for his free speech off school property.

Free speech, to me, does not imply that mass or commercial speech can't be regulated.
Seamus
New mass speech is free, commercial is not
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
Any opinions expressed by me are mine alone, posted from my home computer, on my own time as a free american and do not reflect the opinions of any person or company that I have had professional relations with in the past 51 years. meep

reach me at [link|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net]
New Re: What makes them right?
it's an election
anyone should be able to be heard

A
Play I Some Music w/ Papa Andy
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New In the real world, it doesn't really work that way
freedom of the press only applies to people that can own one. Getting ads on TV is both difficult and expensive, which drastically narrows the field of people who can afford to do so. See, for example, the efforts of adbusters to get ads on TV, even while being willing to pay for it.
New Re: In the real world, it doesn't really work that way
I see your point but rules are somewhat different for campaign ads
and I oppose censorship even if there are economic inequities

A
Play I Some Music w/ Papa Andy
Saturday 8 PM - 11 PM ET
All Night Rewind 11 PM - 5 PM
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New The problem as I see it is this:
Freedom of speech should apply to everybody. Everybody being individual humans. Corporations, PACs, unions, and other organizations should not have free speech. They are not people. They are legal constructs. Congress should be regulating them. That's their job. Congress should not be regulating people. In theory, Congress serves the people, not regulates (rules, really, these days) them.

my 0.02
New Nice theory :-)
Too much of today's music is fashionable crap dressed as artistry.Adrian Belew
New What part?
The part that corporations, PAC, unions, etc are not people, or that Congress serves the people?
jb4
"It's hard for me, you know, living in this beautiful White House, to give you a firsthand assessment."
George W. Bush, when asked if he believed Iraq was in a state of civil war (Newsweek, 26 Feb 07)
Expand Edited by jb4 June 27, 2007, 10:16:34 AM EDT
New Re: What part?
"In theory, Congress serves the people, not regulates (rules, really, these days) them."
Too much of today's music is fashionable crap dressed as artistry.Adrian Belew
New Not sure it was really ever a theory...
More like a goal...
jb4
"It's hard for me, you know, living in this beautiful White House, to give you a firsthand assessment."
George W. Bush, when asked if he believed Iraq was in a state of civil war (Newsweek, 26 Feb 07)
New Lofty ideal perhaps?
Too much of today's music is fashionable crap dressed as artistry.Adrian Belew
New Ok, so it's a joke these days.
Civil servant is semantically equivalent to civil master. That's not likely to change in my lifetime. I just wish they'd knock off the bullshit about "land of the free and home of the brave" before games and such. That's also gone forever.
New land of the safe home of the whiners?
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
Any opinions expressed by me are mine alone, posted from my home computer, on my own time as a free american and do not reflect the opinions of any person or company that I have had professional relations with in the past 51 years. meep

reach me at [link|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net]
New Better, but I'd likely be more caustic.
New Land of the somnolent shopping sheep?
Or if that's too polite -

Land of the assholes who have made Waste their Bizness God's command, and pissed away in 50 years, resources which might have left the species enough time to grow up.

Except - that's too many words for the reduced attention span already accomplished.

Fewer -
Die You Motherfuckers. You tossed all the emergency rations into the Marianas Trench, just to amuse yourselves.

New Money tilt
If corporations can buy the airwaves, then the political messages will be tilted toward pro-business ideas because they have the most access.
________________
oop.ismad.com
New So the well heeled should be alowed to drown out . . .
. . the voices of the less well financed? That is neither democracy nor freedom of speech.
[link|http://www.aaxnet.com|AAx]
New you are either a mass movement that can collectively
anti up the bucks to publish or you are well heeled and anti up the bucks to publish. When has it ever been different? Medium providers need to get paid and our bottom line is expecting great things between now and 2008.
thanx,
bill
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
Any opinions expressed by me are mine alone, posted from my home computer, on my own time as a free american and do not reflect the opinions of any person or company that I have had professional relations with in the past 51 years. meep

reach me at [link|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net]
New Anyone can be heard
The regulation wasn't stopping them from being heard, just regulating how they are heard beyond their own individual speech.

The point about intent is important to me. The Supreme Court is saying you can take intent into account when the speech concerns smoking dope, but you can't take the intent into account when the intent of the speech is to side step a election law/regulation.
Seamus
New wrong conclusion
"The Supreme Court is saying you can take intent into account when the speech concerns smoking dope, but you can't take the intent into account when the intent of the speech is to side step a election law/regulation."

The speech of students attending a "school sponsored event" can be censored for pro-drug messages. The speech of issues during a campaign may not be abridged by censors. The speech concerning a candidate specifically can be censored.

thanx,
bill
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
Any opinions expressed by me are mine alone, posted from my home computer, on my own time as a free american and do not reflect the opinions of any person or company that I have had professional relations with in the past 51 years. meep

reach me at [link|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net]
New I disagree
If I am not mistaken the banner was not on school property.

As to the commercial, the message of the commercial itself seemed to fit the guidelines, it was the website that they attempted to send voters didn't fit the guidelines. So, by keeping the commercial clean but having a website with content that basically asked voters not to vote for McCain, the regulators decided that the intent of the commercial was to violate the regulation. Justice Roberts said that they couldn't judge the intent of the message; just the message itself.

So, in the case of the High School student the principal could judge the intent of the student's message, but that the FEC could not judge the intent of the commercial. That to me is wrong, either they both can use intent to judge the message and take action or neither should be able to.

Now, if he let the FEC judge intent, he still could have ruled that they misjudged this message or that the standards used were inappropriate.
Seamus
Expand Edited by Seamus June 26, 2007, 08:31:31 PM EDT
New School property is not the issue
[link|http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/12/01/scotus.bonghits/index.html|http://www.cnn.com/2...nghits/index.html]


Even though Frederick was standing on a public sidewalk, school officials argue that he and other students were participating in a school-sponsored event. They had been let out of classes and were accompanied by their teachers.


As much as I approve of bong hits, and disapprove of Jesus (or so some might think), I gotta say the school was 100% within their rights of determining the behaviour of the students they were responsible for.
New No it is not the issue
The ability to judge the intent of the message is the issue.

Box brought it up, just because the school considered them at a school function doesn't mean they couldn't have been skipping school and been protesting on their own time. But again, it is just a side issue.
Seamus
New its the CENTRAL ISSUE to the ruling sheesh
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
Any opinions expressed by me are mine alone, posted from my home computer, on my own time as a free american and do not reflect the opinions of any person or company that I have had professional relations with in the past 51 years. meep

reach me at [link|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net]
New It was the intent to promote drug use
that Judge Roberts ruled allowed the school to suspend the student and violate his rights:

"It was reasonable for (the principal) to conclude that the banner promoted illegal drug use-- and that failing to act would send a powerful message to the students in her charge," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court's 6-3 majority. Breyer noted separately he would give Morse qualified immunity from the lawsuit, but did not sign onto the majority's broader free speech limits on students.

...

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said, "This case began with a silly nonsensical banner, (and) ends with the court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message."


[link|http://www.cnn.com/2007/LAW/06/25/free.speech/index.html|http://www.cnn.com/2...speech/index.html]

His reasoning implies that if the banner mentioned drugs but didn't promote drug use the suspension would have been illegal.

The ability to judge the intent of the message is the issue I was dealing with.
Seamus
New splutter!
If he wasnt on a school outing, the schoolboard and the principal would have lost all down the line, dont you understand that? The school only has standing because it was a class sanctioned activity. Since it was a school sanctioned activity the intent is the dicerning of the principal. The principal determined the intent to be an non-school allowed message. If it was after hours she could have shit a brick as far as the court was concerned.
thanx,
bill
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
Any opinions expressed by me are mine alone, posted from my home computer, on my own time as a free american and do not reflect the opinions of any person or company that I have had professional relations with in the past 51 years. meep

reach me at [link|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net]
New Are you really this dense?
The ability to judge theintent of the message has been the issue for me from the start. Everything else is details, without the right details we wouln't be talking about the intent of the message issue. The court could have decided to weigh in and say that by cutting class that the student wasn't under the supervision of the principal but the court didn't take this side issue into consideration.

The students don't completely don't lose their first amendment rights when they are in school.

The court ruled the school got to judge the intent of the message, as to whether is affected student saftey which is ridiculous in this case, but that the FEC didn't get to judge whether the intent of the message was to circumvent the regulation. Either the court should let both have the ability to judge the intent of the message or neither.

Seamus
New Re: Are you really this dense?
"The students don't completely don't lose their first amendment rights when they are in school."

Yeah, they pretty much do.
Too much of today's music is fashionable crap dressed as artistry.Adrian Belew
New What was that about "it's a free country", again?
New Couple of issues with this
First, these are generally children under the age of consent. As such, they are under the protection of the school.

So, are your children allowed to say anything they want to you or any other adult. Say, would you allow them to tell your mother to go get $#*(Q&d? Or would you want to limit that speech?

Different on a college campus...
Too much of today's music is fashionable crap dressed as artistry.Adrian Belew
New Dude, not only is 18 over the "age of consent"
(as if that has anything to do with this), 18 is also over the age of majority; the guy who displayed the sign was officially an adult, able to vote, and able to get shot all to hell in a war manufactured by the guy he most likely didn't vote for.
jb4
"It's hard for me, you know, living in this beautiful White House, to give you a firsthand assessment."
George W. Bush, when asked if he believed Iraq was in a state of civil war (Newsweek, 26 Feb 07)
New Ask it another way
had the boy been injured, would the parents of that boy sued the school for failure to protect him while at a school sanctioned event?

If there was a reasonable expectation that this event was held by the school on behalf of the students then it is not a speech issue because the administration has the right and indeed the duty to control the environment and was within their rights to suspend him for policy violations.

The rest was a nice rant but completely irrelevant.
Too much of today's music is fashionable crap dressed as artistry.Adrian Belew
New Begs the question of his Majority
Were he a 50 yo perpetual grad student in Biz-Ad..
(perhaps on a field trip to apply the Michelson-Morley technique (to see if money really has any velocity, after-all)) and choked on a pretzel - would his academic retinue be deemed in loco parentis, too?

50 ~= >'18' for all legal purposes.

Besides, as to these litmus decisions -- the creds lost by the USSC in the '00 Election-nullification only hinted at the next rash of 5-4 redefinitions of the Constitution. Now if all 3 branches of Govt. + the pathetic remnants of the 4th (Estate) also drop below 30% in these tiresome polls, we may achieve perfect consistency, at last -

Nobody listening to anyone. A Nation of W-clones. I can hardly wait.

New This is a litmus decision?
I'm surprised they even took it.

Student, at a school event, deliberately (by his own admission) provokes the school administration with a sign that he considers a joke and they don't.

He lost.

He should have.
Too much of today's music is fashionable crap dressed as artistry.Adrian Belew
New Litmus only in the sense that -
should an unbroken stream of reversals of minor issues ensue, converging, betraying a pattern asymptotic to some Major Reversals, now being brewed -- then we shall have the full measure of the degree of sophisticated lying within the BushCheney/Rove-picks' {hah} 'testimony' before Congress.

Man: The Lying Animal.

21st Century man: less and less interested in whether it matters.

New Im not the one who cant understand the basis of the case
the court sided with the school who claimed they had jurisdiction over speech content. What part of that dont you understand? If the school did not claim jurisdiction there is no case. Intent doesnt mean a damn thing here. Now the school has a policy of no gang crap, drug crap and race crap. Bong hits for Jesus was taken as a pro drug message (stupid yes)

You wouldnt be a school teacher would you or maybe a government worker?
thanx,
bill
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
Any opinions expressed by me are mine alone, posted from my home computer, on my own time as a free american and do not reflect the opinions of any person or company that I have had professional relations with in the past 51 years. meep

reach me at [link|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net]
New Re: School property is not the issue
School property is not the issue
[link|http://www.cnn.com/2...nghits/index.html|http://www.cnn.com/2...nghits/index.html]

Even though Frederick was standing on a public sidewalk, school officials argue that he and other students were participating in a school-sponsored event. They had been let out of classes and were accompanied by their teachers.

As much as I approve of bong hits, and disapprove of Jesus (or so some might think), I gotta say the school was 100% within their rights of determining the behaviour of the students they were responsible for.

Personally I think this case really hinges on the question of this being a school event or not. I suspect that if one of the students had gotten hurt at the event, the school would be arguing with equal vigor that once school was dismissed the students where on their own.

Jay
New Prec\ufffdsamente - that would be a 100% Murican cop-out.

New so all for censorship I see, no free speech allowed
"School sponsored event" seems to make the case, he was under the jurisdiction of the school at the time he displayed the banner.
[link|http://www.splc.org/newsflash.asp?id=1558|http://www.splc.org/...flash.asp?id=1558]
The Court agreed with Morse that the 14-foot banner could be read as a promotion of drug use, deciding that the \ufffdBong Hits\ufffd message could be interpreted as either encouraging viewers to smoke marijuana or celebrating of drug use. The Court also agreed that the speech took place at a school-sponsored event, although the banner was held up off campus on a public street.

\ufffdBecause schools may take steps to safeguard those entrusted to their care from speech that can be reasonably regarded as encouraging illegal drug use, the school officials in this case did not violate the First Amendment by confiscating the pro-drug banner and suspending Frederick,\ufffd the decision reads.
personally I disagree

Now on to politics
All of the nasty little issue ads that are clearly sponsored by moveon.org should also be banned because they run web sites derogatory of republicans? I dont think thats fair either. I dont care who sponsors an issue attack ad as it is usually some venal little twat with an axe to grind. Supported of course at arms length from the candidates of both parties. Issue attack ads are fine. Sliming a candidate directly on the tube is fine also. Speech that is not commercial or screaming fire in a theatre should not be limited by medium. If you think differently remove the first ammendment and nanny state us to death.
thanx,
bill
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
Any opinions expressed by me are mine alone, posted from my home computer, on my own time as a free american and do not reflect the opinions of any person or company that I have had professional relations with in the past 51 years. meep

reach me at [link|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net]
New It is all about intent
I don't agree with the logic that censoring speech about drug use is safe guarding the students. Nor would I agree with allowing the censorship even if I felt it would actually do anything to dissuade drug use.

My point is about the who gets to judge the intent of the speech and who doesn't. The Supreme Court is allowing schools to use their judgment about speech supporting drug use because they generally agree with the schools judgments. But, they decided not to allow the FEC to judge the intent of the speech because in my opinion because they think they will agree with the FEC.

If the web sites you mention ran ads similar to the Wisconsin Right to Life ad, they should be banned also.

The first amendment is for an individual's speech. Speech from groups can be regulated. It is our job to agree on what is reasonable regulation.
Seamus
New speech from non commercial groups CANNOT be regulated
go pass a law that the green party cannot say anything bad about the EPA. See how long that lasts
thanx,
bill
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
Any opinions expressed by me are mine alone, posted from my home computer, on my own time as a free american and do not reflect the opinions of any person or company that I have had professional relations with in the past 51 years. meep

reach me at [link|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net]
New Let me be clearer
If any other group, even a liberal group, ran an ad similar to one the Wisconsin group ran than their commercials should have been banned also.


Seamus
New I have not seen the ad, what in detail was the content
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
Any opinions expressed by me are mine alone, posted from my home computer, on my own time as a free american and do not reflect the opinions of any person or company that I have had professional relations with in the past 51 years. meep

reach me at [link|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net|mailto:bill.oxley@cox.net]
New I'm ambivalent.
I'm more concerned about the decision being 5:4 than the actual substance of it at this point. It looks like a partisan decision that ignores previous rulings, and that's a bad thing.

There's a problem with unknown or poorly disclosed groups, or individuals, putting up slanderous or deliberately misleading advertisements on TV and radio.

There's a problem that conventional wisdom is that election campaigns are too expensive and that the money chase is corrupting our elections.

The FCC only has jurisdiction over over-the-air broadcasts. It can't regulate cable, the internet, etc., as directly as it can broadcasters.

As someone in a Supreme Court argument once noted, wealth isn't speech. Similarly, just because someone can't buy air time (for whatever reason) doesn't mean their First Amendment rights are being infringed.

Rolling all this stuff together, I'm of the opinion that trying to regulate political TV ads is a lost cause. There will always be loop-holes, and always be ways to game the system.

Probably the simplest solution is to make a condition of obtaining a commercial over-the-air license is that the awardee provide free airtime for candidates in local, state and national elections. The devil's in the details, though.

While publicly financed elections has an appeal, without a free-airtime, it's hard to see how it will act as a restraint on spending. The political consultants have an interest in driving up the price of elections every year, as they presumably often get a cut of the spending in their consulting fees. Plus, who decides who gets money and how much money they get?

Maybe [link|http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/washing.htm|Washington had it right, after all]:

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.


My $0.02.

Cheers,
Scott.
New Between Washington and Franklin,
the two pretty much outlined the path towards dissolution; hoped we wouldn't Do That -- Franklin {appeared to} believed it inevitable "after a time.."

Neither had a plan for (later-on) undoing the cowardice, corruption of the masses -- their vulnerability to manipulation by the public circuses, the de-sinning of Greed, etc. Perhaps the oil thing + temperatures -?- shall seed the major overhaul so evidently required.

But not before blood in the streets, IMO - 'we' lack the guts even to throw out our 'Shogun' and his sock puppet Pretender, despite that litany of rilly stupid moves.. so why would the US consumer face even deeper introspection (while the stores are still full of pretty Toys?) Bringing out the guns First will be ever-so-much more personally satisfying. For some period (?) which nobody could estimate.

[link|http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2007/05/02/notes050207.DTL&hw=Mark+Morford+hippies&sn=001&sc=1000| The Hippies Were Right!] per Mark Morford - nevermind the plebian focus upon the dope, the hair, the free sex, the Purittanical piece of dung within every Murican gene... Every office slave subliminated his/her envy of a rat-race freed 'person', while mouthing the grade-school excoriations of a POV they never examined for a second.

Their general realization that, "The Things weigh you down much more than buoy you up" -- has yet to sink in, of course. Muricans still believe, I Am What I Bought .. but sans free oil: We'll See what shiny new slogans are coined to justify the Inevitable as, "what I really wanted all along, y'know? cha cha"


Parts of this could be rilly Fun, if enough relax and enjoy having More of 'Less stuff.'
;^>

New Remember, according to a previous ruling, money == speech
jb4
"It's hard for me, you know, living in this beautiful White House, to give you a firsthand assessment."
George W. Bush, when asked if he believed Iraq was in a state of civil war (Newsweek, 26 Feb 07)
New What the week's rulings taught us.
Corporate speech is "more protected" than individual speech. It would take a Hoosier on the bench for that conclusion to make sense. What disgusts me most is that there is no outrage to the fact that in the same week the USSC chilled free speech rights for citizens and expanded them for corporations.




Edit: Tpyo
bcnu,
Mikem

Microsoft Vista. The best reason ever to buy a Mac.
Expand Edited by mmoffitt June 27, 2007, 01:04:41 PM EDT
New Yes, just that Simple. 5-to-4s ... til the 'revolution'.

New Re: What the week's rulings taught us.
Political ads are not necessarily corporate
the ad in question was from some wingnuts
groups of all sorts can raise money

A
Play I Some Music w/ Papa Andy
Saturday 8 PM - 11 PM ET
All Night Rewind 11 PM - 5 PM
Reggae, African and Caribbean Music
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New Depends on exactly what is meant by "corporate"
after all, strictly speaking corporate means together. That right now it's mostly used as shorthand to describe a certain type of business entity (the limited liability corporation) doesn't mean that it's not properly applied to other collections of human beings.
New Heh.
groups of all sorts can raise money

Yes, Pollyanna. And wealth in this country is soooooooooooooooo evenly and equitably distributed, all's fair, right?
bcnu,
Mikem

Microsoft Vista. The best reason ever to buy a Mac.
New It's a fine line between naive wishfulness and gullibility.
But either way: you get to be led by the likes of a Cheney-Shrub; Icons to Look UpTo.

Apparently, after some population number N is reached:
you can simply write a script - and make everybody Feel Successful.
Long enough to ~'vote', anyway. (No longer is Soma needed in the water supply.)

I aver that we are quite past N and the scripts are now, er Turing complete?

New There's still a bit of hope...
[link|http://www.wcax.com/Global/story.asp?S=6728444|http://www.wcax.com/...ory.asp?S=6728444]

It's all about context ;-)
New :-) .. a few truffles amidst the turds, anyway

New Re: I hate it when they're right-eously dissembling
and pompously parsing, just like the bookkeeper corp. ad on Tee Vee --
We're passionate about accounting! (I do not invent this.)

[link|http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/06/29/supreme_court/index.html?source=newsletter| Salon]
Free speech for the rich and powerful

How the Roberts-led Supreme Court is setting the stage for bureaucrats to shape American culture from the top down.

By Garrett Epps



June 29, 2007 | "Where the First Amendment is implicated," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote this week in an important free-speech opinion, "the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor."

It's a comforting thought, and a nice example of the kind of judicial rhetoric Americans are used to. It appeared high up in most news accounts of the Supreme Court's decisions in three First Amendment cases on Monday, and it is sure to appear in conservative commentary hailing the arrival of the Roberts court.

Unfortunately, the implication that this court defends First Amendment rights is pretty much hogwash. If one carefully reads all three of these First Amendment cases, the court is really saying that the tie goes to speakers who have money and power. That is, if the speaker is rich and influential, then free speech wins. If not, free speech loses. Taken together, the cases give a picture of a new court majority that takes a very narrow view of free speech and a deferential approach to bureaucrats who seek to shape American culture from the top down.

Considering that one of the three cases dismissed the right of high school students to ridicule the solemnities of their elders, the cases might be scored as Ferris Bueller 0, Ben Stein 3. The cases also provide an example of how the new justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, operate. Both proclaimed themselves respectful of precedent; and unlike Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, they did not go in for the wholesale overruling of precedents they dislike. Instead, in all three cases, they have chosen to narrowly interpret previous cases, until in the end there is almost nothing left of them. Think of it as a soothing way of diminishing liberal precedent, slice by tiny slice. But the direction is clear, and we should not be confused about where this court is taking us. "Reason by degrees submits to absurdity," Samuel Johnson once wrote, "as the eye is in time accommodated to darkness.''

Consider the first case, Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. This is the case that gave the court the opportunity to praise its own devotion to freedom of speech. The issue was whether Congress could ban certain types of interest-group advertisements -- in essence, disguised ads for or against candidates -- within 30 days of a federal election. This restriction on "electioneering communications" was a key provision of the McCain-Feingold Act, passed in 2002, which sought to limit the impact of special-interest funds on political campaigns. Wisconsin Right to Life ran TV spots attacking Sen. Russell Feingold for supporting the Democratic filibuster against President Bush's most conservative judicial nominees. "Contact Senators Feingold and Kohl and tell them to oppose the filibuster," the ad concluded. As luck would have it, the ads were running just before the Wisconsin senatorial primary, in which Feingold was running for re-nomination. Right to Life had earlier announced that one of its priorities was ridding the Senate of the stubbornly independent Feingold; so even though the ad did not say, "Defeat Feingold," a lower court held that it was barred under the law, and that Right to Life's challenge was foreclosed by McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 case that said the courts would not hear most challenges to McCain-Feingold.

The majority reversed the lower court and held that this set of ads was not an "electioneering communication." It didn't overturn McConnell, but it did interpret it so narrowly that it's hard to see what pre-election ads it will cover. And in that context, Roberts enunciated his theory that First Amendment interests win in a tie.

The issue is a genuinely complex one, and there are very powerful arguments against government attempts to limit speech by any person or group in the run-up to an election. So perhaps it is a coincidence that this is the only one of Monday's cases that the challengers won; that the speech at issue was nothing that wouldn't fit into a sound bite on Fox News; that the speaker was a powerful and well-financed political group; and that the speech in question could be read as "Vote against any candidate who opposes judicial nominees like, say, John Roberts and Samuel Alito." But if it is a coincidence, it's a striking one.

Consider the next case, Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation. In that case, the challengers sought to block the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives from funding conferences designed to promote the administration's radical contention that government social service funds should flow through avowedly religious groups as part of their proselytizing mission. The Freedom From Religion Foundation argued that this use of tax money violated the First Amendment's prohibition on government "establishment of religion." They went into court under Flast v. Cohen, a venerable precedent from the Warren Court era that permits taxpayers to challenge tax expenditures used for promoting religion. In most cases, taxpayers can't sue the government just because they don't like the way their taxes are being used; but the Supreme Court in 1968 had made an exception for establishment challenges. It read James Madison's writings on establishment to suggest that the use of tax monies for religious purposes was a gross violation of the rights of conscience, even if the amount thus extorted from the taxpayer was small -- even, Madison said, if it was " three pence only."

The Roberts court dismissed the challenge; it didn't overrule Flast -- that would have seemed radical -- it simply reinterpreted it to allow challenges only to congressional appropriations directly for religious purposes. Because the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives was set up by executive order rather than by congressional line item, the case was dismissed for lack of standing. As in Wisconsin Right to Life, an existing precedent has been left as a shell of itself. Under the new interpretation, citizens will be able to go to court only against congressionally passed statutes that in essence proclaim their religious nature, say, "An Act to Establish an Official Religion and Fund It." In the 21st century, however, it is the executive that makes most of the decisions about how appropriated funds are spent; and the court has now proclaimed those decisions off limits to religious objectors. In this case, a tie pays the powerful.

The same is true, most painfully, in Morse v. Frederick -- the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case. An Alaska high school sent its students out to the street to watch the Olympic torch pass by; as it did so, a group of students, clearly hoping to get themselves on television, unfurled a large banner with the enigmatic memo, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Acting on the repressive instinct of every high school principal everywhere, the Alaska high school's Deborah Morse demanded it be taken down at once. When one irrepressible scamp, Joseph Frederick, refused, the principal confiscated the banner and suspended him.

The principal argued that the banner needed to come down right away because it encouraged drug use. Frederick said "the words were just nonsense meant to attract television cameras."

As we learned during his confirmation, Chief Justice Roberts is an indefatigable grammarian, and in his opinion he engaged in an exhaustive parsing to conclude that the phrase must mean either "[Take] bong hits..." or "'bong hits [are a good thing],' or '[we take] bong hits.'" And thus Frederick was either advocating or celebrating drug use, Roberts reckoned, and could be punished because "failing to act would send a powerful message ... about how serious the school was about the dangers of illegal drug use." To put it another way, as Roberts sees it, schools have the power to make sure that students not only listen but that they don't laugh at the message. In Roberts' view of students' view of free speech rights, laughter is not protected. Humorlessness: The anti-drug.

Anyone who remembers high school should have understood that the message was not one to be decoded by Roberts' pedantic brackets and ellipses; it was the same message sent by students everywhere every day in every free society -- "This whole thing is a farce" or, in the words of Lewis Carroll's Alice, "Who cares for you? You're nothing but a pack of cards!"

The idea that that in a free society debate should be, as a former Supreme Court said in New York Times v. Sullivan in 1964, "uninhibited, robust, and wide-open" does not apply to the young. Solemn acquiescence is the major skill of citizenship to be taught in the schools of our democracy, and those who will not learn the lesson can be punished.

The concept of freedom sketched by these three opinions is an thin one. We have the right to listen to TV ads from PACS. When the executive branch wants to lecture the rest of us about how we should believe in God, we have no right to challenge their actions, taken in our name and with our funds. And when the government sets out to make our children conform, they'd better not give back any guff about the emperor lacking clothes.

You, reading this: Welcome to American freedom, ca. 2007. And wipe that smile off your face.
Maybe in a few more months, we'll see fershure just where the cabal that got US-all The Cabal from Hell, in ought-One --> plans to p-reach towards, exactly. The Smugness is as palpable as that perpetual smirk on Fallwell (or Cheney.) Narcissist young pups pretending to gravitas?

     I hate it when they're right - (andread) - (56)
         "Money talks!" -NT - (a6l6e6x)
         What makes them right? - (Seamus) - (45)
             mass speech is free, commercial is not -NT - (boxley)
             Re: What makes them right? - (andread) - (40)
                 In the real world, it doesn't really work that way - (jake123) - (14)
                     Re: In the real world, it doesn't really work that way - (andread) - (13)
                         The problem as I see it is this: - (hnick) - (10)
                             Nice theory :-) -NT - (bepatient) - (8)
                                 What part? - (jb4) - (7)
                                     Re: What part? - (bepatient) - (6)
                                         Not sure it was really ever a theory... - (jb4) - (5)
                                             Lofty ideal perhaps? -NT - (bepatient)
                                             Ok, so it's a joke these days. - (hnick) - (3)
                                                 land of the safe home of the whiners? -NT - (boxley) - (2)
                                                     Better, but I'd likely be more caustic. -NT - (hnick) - (1)
                                                         Land of the somnolent shopping sheep? - (Ashton)
                             Money tilt - (tablizer)
                         So the well heeled should be alowed to drown out . . . - (Andrew Grygus) - (1)
                             you are either a mass movement that can collectively - (boxley)
                 Anyone can be heard - (Seamus) - (24)
                     wrong conclusion - (boxley) - (23)
                         I disagree - (Seamus) - (22)
                             School property is not the issue - (crazy) - (16)
                                 No it is not the issue - (Seamus) - (13)
                                     its the CENTRAL ISSUE to the ruling sheesh -NT - (boxley) - (12)
                                         It was the intent to promote drug use - (Seamus) - (11)
                                             splutter! - (boxley) - (10)
                                                 Are you really this dense? - (Seamus) - (9)
                                                     Re: Are you really this dense? - (bepatient) - (7)
                                                         What was that about "it's a free country", again? -NT - (CRConrad) - (6)
                                                             Couple of issues with this - (bepatient) - (5)
                                                                 Dude, not only is 18 over the "age of consent" - (jb4) - (4)
                                                                     Ask it another way - (bepatient) - (3)
                                                                         Begs the question of his Majority - (Ashton) - (2)
                                                                             This is a litmus decision? - (bepatient) - (1)
                                                                                 Litmus only in the sense that - - (Ashton)
                                                     Im not the one who cant understand the basis of the case - (boxley)
                                 Re: School property is not the issue - (JayMehaffey) - (1)
                                     Prec\ufffdsamente - that would be a 100% Murican cop-out. -NT - (Ashton)
                             so all for censorship I see, no free speech allowed - (boxley) - (4)
                                 It is all about intent - (Seamus) - (3)
                                     speech from non commercial groups CANNOT be regulated - (boxley) - (2)
                                         Let me be clearer - (Seamus) - (1)
                                             I have not seen the ad, what in detail was the content -NT - (boxley)
             I'm ambivalent. - (Another Scott) - (1)
                 Between Washington and Franklin, - (Ashton)
             Remember, according to a previous ruling, money == speech -NT - (jb4)
         What the week's rulings taught us. - (mmoffitt) - (7)
             Yes, just that Simple. 5-to-4s ... til the 'revolution'. -NT - (Ashton)
             Re: What the week's rulings taught us. - (andread) - (3)
                 Depends on exactly what is meant by "corporate" - (jake123)
                 Heh. - (mmoffitt) - (1)
                     It's a fine line between naive wishfulness and gullibility. - (Ashton)
             There's still a bit of hope... - (scoenye) - (1)
                 :-) .. a few truffles amidst the turds, anyway -NT - (Ashton)
         Re: I hate it when they're right-eously dissembling - (Ashton)

Sanctioned by GRR.
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