By James F. Tierney
In a story we missed when it first broke a month ago, a federal appellate court upheld a Texas school's decision to suspend the high school sophomore for writing a violent fictional short story that school administrators interpreted to be a "terroristic threat." According to the Student Press Law Center, the Fifth Circuit decision "relied heavily on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's opinion" in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case that came down this summer -- Morse v.
By Harvey Silverglate
One of the more silly pieces that I’ve read in recent years appeared in, of all places, the usually polished and interesting "Ideas" section of The Boston Globe, to which I invariably turn every Sunday. In an opinion piece on the first page of that section, Darius Rejali, a political science professor at Reed College and the author of a forthcoming book (Torture and Democracy) argues that while we like to think of torture as “mainly the province of dictators and juntas – the kind of thing that happens behind the iron doors of repressive regimes,” in fact, “it is the democracies that have been the real innovators in 20th century torture,” modern torture “is mainly a democratic innovation,” and we have “exported [new torture techniques] to more authoritarian regimes.
You may have heard about the Pennsylvania woman who was charged with disorderly conduct for "loudly cursing at her overflowing toilet," which a neighbor -- an off-duty police officer, no less -- heard. The Boston Globe reports that the judge threw out the charges against her because her speech was "protected speech pursuant to the First Amendment."
For quite some time, I’ve been griping about what I call “the corporatization of the American university” – the trend in which our colleges and universities have prioritized their role as businesses over their role as educational institutions. This transition has led to all manner and kind of mischief, including an administrative culture that is willing to sacrifice such basic values as academic freedom and rational processes in order that there be “no trouble on the watch” of the current president, whoever he or she might be.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court released its decisions in two important cases about how judges sentence federal criminals: Kimbrough v. United States and Gall v. United States. Taken together, the cases increase individual judges’ discretion in how to sentence crimes, by allowing them to depart from the federal sentencing guidelines, which are “advisory” rather than binding on judges.
Sometimes, as Sigmund Freud put it, a cigar is just a cigar. And, likewise, sometimes words in the Constitution actually mean what they say. Much brainpower, however, has been expended trying to argue that the First Amendment, which admonishes that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” [emphasis added], actually doesn’t mean what it appears to say.