“Bong Hits” No,”Bush Drug Shirt” Yes—Huh?

Perhaps I can summon the ghost of Earl Warren or William O. Douglas–or, at the very least, Johnny Cochran– to explain why the Supreme Court ruled against the disruptive student in the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case but  found in favor of the disruptive student in the “Bush Drug Shirt” case.  

 In the Bong case, five  justices believed that the Bongee/plaintiff was advocating drug use (for Jesus?). They held that schools have a legitimate role in prohibiting illegal drug use;  therefore, Bong Boy was out of bounds.

In  Bush Shirt, however, the High Court (no pun)  refused to overturn a lower court decision in favor of another schoolboy who wore an anti-Bush shirt labeling W  a “Chicken Hawk-in-Chief.” The shirt also displayed drug and alcohol imagery. (Photo here.)

Common sense might tell us that  in this  divided Blue/Red nation, the Bush Shirt could be far more disruptive than the  almost-nonsensical Bong Hits banner. The key distinction, apparently, is that along with its imagery ridiculing Bush as a former druggie/boozer–which would, by itself, not have any constitutional protection, I assume–the shirt also included the “Chicken Hawk” and “World Domination” lines, which put it safely over into the realm of protected political speech.

Hmm.

  Students don’t park all their rights at the schoolhouse door, but everyone knows, and other court decisions have made clear, that pupils don’t enjoy the full range of rights granted to adults (starting with the fact that kids must attend school up to a certain age; adults, by contrast, can’t be forced to work or go to school).

Schools below the college level still have some of the old in loco parentis functions, and if administrators and teachers didn’t have the power to limit student freedoms in numerous ways (locker searches, for instance), schools in many cities would be even more unmanageable than they are today, if that can be imagined.

This is an iffy case, but our system usually tilts in favor of maximum liberty for the individual. As discussed here before, every system of government is based on faith in something, and, in the eternal struggle between the rights of the group and the rights of the individual,  we’ve put most of  our chips on the individual. We’ve made our gamble and most of the time, it’s worked out fine–at least, much better than it has in countries that have staked their hopes on the state.

 With that in mind, I lean toward okaying the Drug Shirt, given its political themes. But it’s easy to build a hypothetical in which the court’s current reasoning could lead to chaos in schools.

Imagine, for instance, that a number of kids in one school wear “Ban Homo Teachers” shirts, while another group dons “Gay Marriage 4 Ever” shirts. Other students take sides, and shouting matches break out in the halls and locker rooms.

If the school banned all the shirts in an effort to keep order, how would the High Court rule? Both shirts express political messages that have figured  in legitimate public debate. Do students have a right to express  these ideas, and dozens of equally disruptive themes we could imagine?

 It’s a messy conundrum. For more (print and radio) on the subject of the group vs. the individual, have a look here.

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iPHONE DEBUTS!!!!! (as comet strikes earth, killing millions)

Here’s something funny I found on the Interbloggenwebtube today:

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone London Police Defuse Explosive, Thwarting Possible Terror Attack. iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iRaq iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone iPhone

Immigration: A Nation Paralyzed?

The bleakest take-away from yesterday’s Grand Bargain collapse is this: The federal government can’t do anything about this messy, multi-pronged problem of  immigration. (I’m hoping for a better bill to emerge, but with those all-important summer vacations looming, and then the presidential fray, who knows?)

But another question remains: If the feds can’t do anything about immigration, can anyone? How about the states or local communities?Recall that several local ordinances passed by cities around the country have been put on hold by the courts. That’s the case in Hazelton, PA, and Farmers Branch, TX. , a Dallas suburb (without farmers) a few miles from where I live.

In the Farmers Branch case, Federal Judge Sam Lindsay has said again and again that immigration control is the responsibility of the federal government. He used that reasoning to deep-freeze an ordinance that would have forbidden renting apartments to illegal immigrants.

Roughly the same reasoning was used in the Hazelton case, which has been through trial and is now awaiting a decision by the judge. But what if the Feds are paralyzed? What if there is no prospect of any top-down solution anytime soon?

Will that affect the judges in these local cases?  Or will they say, in effect, you can’t do anything even if Washington does nothing?

 And, by the way, I’d expect many more local communities to bring forward their own ideas if there’s no help coming down from D. C.

Immigration Bill Dead–What Now?

There goes the Grand Bargain comprehensive immigration bill, killed by a coalition of senators–some thought it too lenient, some too harsh.

One key reason for the defeat: “Once burned, twice shy.”

 Too many voters simply didn’t believe the government would or could come through with the “sticks” in the bill–border security, tough workplace inspections, touchbacks. They feared Washington would do nothing but hand out the grande carrot-enchilada of amnesty the path to citizenship.

With 15 Dems joining 38 Repubs to vote against letting the bill go forward, neither party may have an easy time blaming the other, though you can bet they’ll try.

Now what? Senators like Kennedy and Feinstein have been saying that if this bill fell apart, we’d be back to the unacceptable status quo until. .. until when? The next presidential election? Hard to imagine a landslide either way that would bring in enough new Senators to do a new bill.

Maybe, just maybe, the enormity of the situation will sink in on the solons: Can we really just let this go, with millions of new illegal immigrants coming each year? (And, in fact, won’t the flow accelerate now, with more people wanting to get in fast before future bills make it tougher?)

One side’s got to give in the interest of getting a new bill up and moving–but which one?

“Hostel Part II” Chopped Up at Box Office!

If you’ve been dropping in here over the past few months, you know that I find the rise of torture-porn movies to be one of the more distressing signals our society has sent up lately.

If you can judge a society at least in part by its “art,” I shudder to think what these orgies of evisceration and mayhem say about us. And while I don’t believe we have enough hard evidence for a link between violent movies and violent behavior, I can’t imagine a parent on earth who would read through this list of sadistic horrors from Hostel Part II and say, “Hey, sure glad my kids got to see that one!”

So it  gives me great pleasure to announce that Hostel Part II appears to be a flop at the box office. I’m not making any confident claim here, but is it possible that the movie was just…too violent?

Not surprisingly, director Eli  Roth doesn’t think so. And check this out: He’s blaming pirates for hurting the movie. Not Pirates of the Caribbean, but movie pirates.  He’s so upset, he  thinks “the R-rated horror film” is in danger.

You think? I’m feeling more hopeful already.

Time Warner Says Cable Choice Fans Are Nazis

Re my recent post on cable TV choice, favored by Kevin Martin, head of the  Federal Communications Commission, Sen. John McCain and others. (A bill to allow cable choice is pending in Congress.) 

One company that definitely does not want cable choice is Time Warner, one of the country’s biggest cable outfits. Arguing against allowing people to buy the TV channels they want, and not the ones they don’t want, Richard Parsons, chairman of Time Warner Inc., had this to say:

“Visit the Holocaust Museum to see what happens when government gets control of the message,” he said. “The last people you want meddling in this pond is the government.” 

So what is Mr. Parsons saying–that people who want to buy certain TV channels, and not others, are Nazis? That we’d like to stifle free speech or take away someone else’s right to watch a certain channel?

Disgraceful.

As we’ve seen all too often of late, many people don’t want to mount reasonable arguments or offer evidence for their positions. Instead, they want to choke off debate by calling their opponents racists, or, worse, Nazis.

If there’s anything worse than extremist rhetoric that substitutes name-calling for thought, it’s extremist rhetoric used by wealthy corporations to protect their market share. More of that rhetoric here.