Monday, June 25, 2007

Repression Starts on Tuesday

The Bush administration is basically at an end, and a lot of people are already tallying up the damage. Most of W's dismal legacy hangs on the Iraq debacle, but only in recent weeks have the consequences of the Roberts/Alito Supreme Court come into sharp focus. These are lifetime appointments, folks.

They've ruled in favor of restrictions on abortion, chosen developers over the environment, denied citizens the right to challenge Bush's faith-based initiative, and refused to hear a suit which alleges that two pharma giants conspired to monopolize the market on a breast cancer drug. Even the people who expected the worst are in shock at just how quickly this court lurched right, laughing at precedent all the way.

But two wildly inconsistent free-speech decisions handed down today really underscore the court's political agenda. In the first 5-4 ruling, the justices defanged McCain-Feingold, making it easier for private entities to funnel money to political campaigns via so-called "issue ads." Roberts stated with great piety: “the First Amendment requires us to err on the side of protecting political speech rather than suppressing it.”

The second decision revolved around an Alaskan high school student named John Frederick, who held up a banner saying "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a 2002 Olympic Torch Relay ceremony. Frederick was not on school grounds at the time, but the principal saw fit to suspend him for 10 days for his subversive, pro-narcotics message. Frederick sued, claiming the punishment infringed on his right to free speech. Today the court ruled, again 5-4, in favor of the principal. Clearly, Frederick's Animal House-esque banner is far more dangerous to the republic than spending large amounts of money to influence the outcome of an election.