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March 02, 2011


Of course, I'm a whole freaking Constitution absolutist, which means at some point the singing dies away, and the liberals wander off... Actually, based on the popularity of campaign 'reform' on the left, they wander off during the first stanza, most of them...

Justice Stevens, in the dissent to the Citizens United decision:

At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

He could have used "monied interests" if he wanted a more originalist flavor. Anyway, that's basically the liberal position. I agree that it is not an absolutist stance on the 1st amendment.

Ulimately, I've come around to the idea that trying to get money out of politics is a re-enactment of Canut ordering the tide to stop. I find this depressing. YMMV.

and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.

It goes back well before Roosevelt, actually.

trying to get money out of politics is a re-enactment of Canut ordering the tide to stop.

It's not a question of money. It's a question of whose money, and in what amounts, and what the money buys.

"Laws limiting picketing... again, we need to be very careful. People need to be protected against physical harm.

But the standard to be used is to imagine any such law used against our own causes.

Do we really want a law that protects the Phelpses from having their church picketed?

In any case, what's at question isn't a law for against picketing. It's whether you can sue for emotional distress at being picketed. This is entirely different.

Should racists get to sue anti-racists because they're distressed at having anti-racist slogans shouted at them?

Should homophobes get to sue gay rights organizations who picket anti-gay businesses because they're emotionally distressed?"

I can imagine quite a few people whose funerals I would be tempted to picket and I mentioned one in my first thread--Reagan. I don't think my political views on Reagan's record (which are mixed, actually, but include the thought that he had the blood of countless innocents on his hands) belong on a poster right outside his funeral.

I'm not proposing a general rule that you can't hurt people's feelings with protests. Those other cases you mentioned involved hurting people's religious feelings or their political feelings or their feelings about their racism. Well, let a thousand insults bloom as far as I am concerned. But let family members alone with their grief during and immediately outside a funeral. I don't think that's in the same category as someone hurting my feelings by not approving of the church I attend or the political views I hold or accusing me (falsely or accurately) of being a racist. People don't generally choose to have their son die. Not all feelings are the same. Grief is a special case and people feeling it at their son's freaking funeral could reasonably expect to have their right to feel it without insults valued more strongly than the right of some sociopaths to insult them.

That said, I agree that you can't trust politicians to be reasonable about this. So yeah, maybe they would start sliding down that slippery slope, because politicians can't be trusted and that's maybe a good enough reason not to do what I'd like. But I think I could stand on that slope all day without feeling the slightest temptation to ban political speech I find loathsome.

Doctor Science, comment fixed.

But let family members alone with their grief during and immediately outside a funeral.

It would be interesting to see every political speech and appearance tied to the funeral of a supporter to prevent hecklers and protestors.

Sarah Palin could just hop from cemetary to cemetary unchallenged.

"It would be interesting to see every political speech and appearance tied to the funeral of a supporter to prevent hecklers and protestors."

More than interesting--it would be the best possible way for them to make themselves look ridiculous. Jon Stewart would think he'd died and gone to heaven, sort of the way he reacted when Cheney had his little hunting accident.

What Donald said. The phrase 'Don't speak ill of the dead', is, I believe, not some sort of bizarre throwback to ancient concerns that one was going to be haunted by someone's ghost, it expresses a social understanding. I would be just as appalled by some group of protestors from the left disrupting a funeral in order to make a similar statement of national magnitude, which from reading the decision, was the only point that protects the protest.

Yes, the odious have a right to be heard, but must they be heard when their remarks will do extreme emotional violence to the parents of slain soldiers?

Even a pacifist may be incited to violence by the Westboro bully pulpit.

Having killed off their children, don't we have a responsibility to protect the parents of dead soldiers on the day of the funeral?

Leaving aside for a moment the irony of silent protests being speech ;-)
At what point does picketing move from free speech to disorderly conduct?
The case I have in mind is a German fundamentalist who notoriously disrupts church services (preferably when the service has been chosen for public broadcasting*) and usually has to be carried out by security. He cannot be deterred with fines or even prison terms. His most spectacular stunt has been to saw off the official Berlin Christmas tree next to Emperor Wilhelm Memorial Church (one of his favorite targets).

*German public (federal state) TV traditionally carries one service on Sunday, as do most Länder (=states) radio broadcasting stations (at least one station also has a Jewish service on Saturday). There is no preferred treatment for a single denomination. I assume the frequency has something to do with the relative size of the respective denominations and their willingness to participate (i.e./e.g. mainline protestant and RCC most often, Old Catholics occasionally, Jehovah's Witnesses never).

There were criminal charges filed in the case of a teenager who committed suicide after cyberbullying, so it's conceivable that suicide could be the basis for a hate crime accusation.

I wonder if the Court would have offered protection to a similarly obnoxious "God hates conservatives" campaign.

Westboro would likely lose, as it did in the case under discussion, and the reviewing court would likely throw out the jury's verdict, as the SCT did here. The only winners are people like me.

And Westboro, who managed to game the appeal process to be awarded a huge amount for "court costs".

Anyway, shorter Alito: "Free speech is for corporations, not people".

indeed, how else do you explain juries awarding damages to the WBC in such amounts that enables them to continue their crusade?

I suspect that most of those cases don't get anywhere close to a jury. Given the prevailing sentiments here and elsewhere, I would expect to see a bunch of jury verdicts awarding damages in the amount of $1, or perhaps direct medical expenses only, if it got that far.

I suspect that most of these cases are settled up front, along the lines of: "You assaulted my client. If this case goes to trial, you will spend at least fifty grand to defend yourself, win or lose. But we're willing to make it go away for a mere twenty grand if you pay by tomorrow. Your choice." If so, perhaps one way to undercut the Westboro "business model" would be to create a legal defense fund for the people they sue.

While I don't encourage vandalism as a solution, I do feel like playing a very tiny violin for the misfortune suffered by Westboro in this story. It seems they were protesting a soldier's funeral in Oaklahoma, and got back to their minivan to find that someone had slashed their tires while they were protesting. For some reason, no one in town seemed to be interested in selling them a new tire...

Again, I'll point out that laws and administrative actions were used to prevent liberals from picketing at, or even stepping within 3 miles of, the Republican National Conventions in 2004 and 2008
Those are HORRIFIC laws. Surely you're not not using them to say we should have yet more horrrific laws, using those as a precent, rather and than fighting tooth, nail, claw, and snarl, against these horrendous "free speech zone" concepts, given that all of America is supposed to be a "free speech zone"?

I've seen it said (and I have no basis for determining the veracity of these claims) that the Westboro Baptist Church's entire raison d'être is to generate lawsuit income.

They might sue a government entity for refusing to allow them to demonstrate; they might sue a person if that person assaults them; they might sue anyone or anything they can sue for monetary damages.

Is this true? I don't know. I do know it's a much better explanation for their behavior from a human perspective than any other explanation that I've heard. A financial incentive makes a lot more sense than any other explanation.

I don't know if anyone's linked to Chris Wallace's interview with Margie Phelps, but it's interesting, in a dissecting-cockroaches kind of way.

According to Ms. Phelps, the "God Hates Fags" signs parading around at military funerals actually have a point: that because God abhors homosexuality, he's making soldiers die in combat.

I think Wallace tries to make some good points, there, but you can't really argue with a religious phanatique, because they have the Lord on their side, and with that unwavering faith comes the unwavering belief that what they do is right.

I choose my own, rickety, unsure version of Christianity. I rather doubt that God is all that fond of human arrogance. I could be wrong about that, though.

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