Dear readers: Trust me. I’m a long-time criminal defense and
civil liberties lawyer, and I’m telling you that the “war on drugs” has been
an abysmal and wholly destructive failure. Not only has it been responsible for
the erosion of myriad provisions of
the Bill of Rights, but this “war” has
made it significantly more difficult for those interested in promoting healthy
practices, especially among the young, to speak with credibility and
persuasiveness on the dangers of abusing both lawful and illegal drugs.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino treads a shameful, unwise,
constitutionally dubious, and ultimately ineffective path when he orders his
goons to keep the untidy street performers from the plaza surrounding City Hall
and Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Relegating the
clowns, artists and other performers
to a small sliver of territory, outside of the main arena of activity, not only
forecloses more than one performance at a time, but relegates the performers to
an inconsequential status.
“Hide your children! The British are coming!!”
From the mouths of militiamen came the now-famous warning:
the British had invaded, and the time to fight for independence had arrived.
Today, nearly a quarter-millennium after the colonists’
struggle, some citizens see a new threat after the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of
Appeals handed down two key free speech decisions this week.
By Harvey Silverglate
Three cheers for Margery Eagan for her July 8th Boston Herald column’s deft skewering of those who have reacted with horror and, even worse, threats of future censorship toward this year’s Beverly Farms Horribles Parade, posted on YouTube. Eagan alone appears to understand the appropriateness of the biting – even crude and vicious – satire directed at the whole brouhaha over whether a group of teenage mothers-to-be in Gloucester got together to plan their deliveries at about the same time.?xml:namespace>
partially a free speech blog, so we’d be remiss in failing to note the passing
of George Carlin. He failed to convince the Supreme Court of the absurdity of
the Federal Communications Commission’s “broadcast indecency” rules that
scrubbed the airwaves during the day and evening (when, presumably, the kiddies
are awake) of those naughty words that we all hear and (if the truth be told)
many of us use quite regularly.
In a puritan streak, Harvard University has forced several student groups who were planning on hosting a "Barely Legal" party to change the name -- or they otherwise couldn't hold the party, according to the Harvard Crimson and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). (Disclosure: Free For All writer Harvey Silverglate is Chairman of the Board of Directors of FIRE.
Last September, Harvey wrote in The Free For All about Star Simpson -- the MIT student who was arrested at Logan Airport for wearing a (prank) sweatshirt displaying a working circuit board connected to a battery -- and predicted that "there is no way prosecutors can convince
twelve sane jurors that a student, wearing such a sweatshirt with the flashing
lights tacked onto the outside rather
than hidden underneath her clothing, was actually trying to perpetrate a hoax
that she was a suicide bomber."
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the owners of the Chicago Cubs are considering enacting a de facto "civility code" at Wrigley field, in response to some Cubs fans who have taken to booing the underperforming left fielder Alfonso Soriano. As Sports Law Blog notes, Wrigley and the Cubbies are privately-owned, so fans don't have First Amendment rights to express their disappointment at their team's defensive performance.
Following up on Harvey's post about the right to travel to Cuba, a few days ago Israeli security services detained American (ex-)academic Norman Finkelstein and refused to allow him entry to Israel for the next ten years. Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald quotes a Jerusalem Post article explaining that "the decision to deport Finkelstein was connected to
his anti-Zionist opinions and fierce public criticism of Israel around
This morning, the Supreme Court ruled that a law that outlaws promoting or advertising -- "pandering" -- child pornography is constitutional and does not interfere with First Amendment freedoms. In the case, United States v. Williams, decided 7-2, the justices declared that there is no free speech right that protects "offers to provide or requests to obtain child pornography," even if (in fact) there is no pornography to be provided.
By Wendy Kaminer
Reacting predictably to spate of noose hanging incidents in late 2007, New York
governor David Patterson has signed legislation criminalizing display of a noose with intent to harass or threaten because of bias against the usual categories, including race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability.
By Harvey Silverglate
The constant war between kids who want to say what they
believe and high school administrators who want, above all else, to keep the
peace on their watch rages on. The latest battle is at Albemarle County and
Charlottesville Public Schools in (appropriately enough) Virginia, where
certain teachers reportedly asked culturally conservative teenage girls to turn
inside-out t-shirts with the slogan “Virginity Rocks,"
so as to hide the message.
Every few weeks a story pops up about how someone – often a college student or an employee who has been fed propaganda to the effect that he or she is entitled to live an offense-free life – was “harassed” because someone else left nasty comments on their door dry-erase board, or some such thing. The most recent example comes from the University of North Dakota, where one student was just charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct for smearing ice cream on the wall of the dorm elevator to write the words “Scott is a Jew.