Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Freedom of Speech

Just so we're clear, you can say whatever you want, unless it's somehow inconvenient to someone, apparently.

It's been a rough week for the First Amendment. First, we had Kathleen Sebelius putting us on notice about mentioning things she'd rather not contemplate. The WSJ editorialists remind us of her subtle approach:

Witness Kathleen Sebelius's Thursday letter to America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group—a thuggish message even by her standards. The Health and Human Services secretary wrote that some insurers have been attributing part of their 2011 premium increases to ObamaCare and warned that "there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases."

Zero tolerance for expressing an opinion, or offering an explanation to policyholders? They're more subtle than this in Caracas.
Wonder how Sebelius would look with a parrot on her shoulder. Well, I'm not part of the insurance industry. Wonder if she'll come and get me?

Meanwhile, we had the spectacle of a sitting Supreme Court justice pondering whether a Koran can be burned (H/T Captain Ed):

Last week we saw a Florida Pastor – with 30 members in his church – threaten to burn Korans which lead to riots and killings in Afghanistan. We also saw Democrats and Republicans alike assume that Pastor Jones had a Constitutional right to burn those Korans. But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told me on "GMA" that he's not prepared to conclude that -- in the internet age -- the First Amendment condones Koran burning.

“Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout 'fire' in a crowded theater,” Breyer told me. “Well, what is it? Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?”
Let's be clear about a few things from the outset. The guy who wanted to burn the Koran was a rat bastard. But as the saying goes, hard cases make bad law. Do we really want to give anyone a heckler's veto over what is indisputably free expression, even if it is vile expression?

Apparently Breyer is willing to entertain this:

For Breyer, that right is not a foregone conclusion.

“It will be answered over time in a series of cases which force people to think carefully. That’s the virtue of cases,” Breyer told me. “And not just cases. Cases produce briefs, briefs produce thought. Arguments are made. The judges sit back and think. And most importantly, when they decide, they have to write an opinion, and that opinion has to be based on reason. It isn’t a fake.”
Do you trust Stephen Breyer to do this thinking for you? Do you trust Antonin Scalia? I wouldn't trust either of them, frankly.

I don't mean to be flip about this, but let's ask a hypothetical: would it be okay to burn a Koran if it were wrapped in an American flag? And if not, on what basis should the Koran (or a Bible) be afforded greater protection than an American flag?


Anonymous said...

the answer is no, I wouldn't trust Breyer, Scalia or Sebellius with my free speech rights, and I think we are in agreement on every point here.

Now, tell me how you honestly feel about this:



Mr. D said...

I guess I don't know what I'm supposed to think about this, Rich. Sounds like Palin said something snide and potentially untrue to some journalists in Montana. And said journalists are outrageously outraged about it. Is that it?

She should probably be put to death, Rich.

Anonymous said...

that isn't my point at all. I find it just creepy for a public figure to attack local reporters who are doing their jobs. Prreemptively and in a dishonest manner too.

Where did you come up with putting someone to death? Wow. Quite a leap there. Oh, never mind.

Mr. D said...

I find it just creepy for a public figure to attack local reporters who are doing their jobs. Prreemptively and in a dishonest manner too.

Public figure and private citizen. Tell you what, let her run for something and then oppose her to your heart's content. I might oppose her, too. At this moment, I worry a lot more about Kathleen Sebelius than I do about Sarah Palin.

Bike Bubba said...

Do we have a private citizen attacking reporters for doing their jobs, or have thin skinned reporters simply not gotten the joke?

Along with our host, I'm a lot more concerned about a public employee trying to use her position to bully private companies she regulates.

Mr. D said...

Exactly, BB.

By the way, shoot me an e-mail (there's a link on my profile page); I know someone who wants to talk to you about blogging.

Night Writer said...

Darth Sebellius: "I find your lack of faith disturbing."

As for burning a Koran, I'm against it and see no point or benefit in it and I'd be the last to do so...unless our Supreme Court wants to say we can't, in which case I'd likely be one of the first to do so.

Gino said...

the stupid part of the koran burning is that the ones burning really dont know what it says, only what they think it says.