March 20, 2007

Their voices are bringing trees to their knees

Jack Youngerman, The New School, 1969

* From Harper's April 2007:

-- Number of vehicles in the motorcade that transports President Bush to his regular bikeride in Maryland: 14

-- Amount by which the salary of Judge Judy exceeds the salaries of all nine Supreme Court justices combined: $26,000,000

-- Change since 2002in the average number of hours that the IRS devotes to each audit of a large company: -252

-- Average amount of unpaid tax the IRS discovers for each hour spent auditing a large or medium-sized company: $5,195

-- Cost to make the film Zyzzyx Road, which was released last year: $1,200,000

-- Amount if grossed at the U.S. box office: $30

* The New York Times on the bonghits for Jesus case argued at the Supreme Court yesterday. excerpt:

"The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a case that has attracted attention mainly because of its eccentric story line: An Alaska student was suspended from high school in 2002 after he unfurled a banner reading 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' while the Olympic torch passed by. But the case raises important issues of freedom of expression and student censorship that go far beyond the words on that banner. The court should affirm the appeals court’s well-reasoned decision that when the school punished the student it violated his First Amendment rights."
"The Bush administration joined the school district in arguing that schools have broad authority to limit talk about drugs because of the importance of keeping drugs away from young people. But if schools can limit speech on any subject deemed to be important, students could soon be punished for talking about the war on terror or the war in Iraq because the government also considers those subjects important.

"Some school administrators would no doubt use their power to clamp down on conservative speech while others would clamp down on liberal speech. A school that values diversity could punish students who criticize affirmative action, while a more conservative school could ban students from taking outspoken positions about global warming. Religious groups have joined civil libertarians in backing Mr. Frederick because they fear schools will punish students who talk about their religious beliefs.

If the Supreme Court wants to dodge the free-speech-in-school issues, it could rule that the off-campus Olympic torch event was not a formal school activity — and that the principal had no right to limit anyone’s free speech there. That would not harm students’ free speech rights, but it would also do little to affirm them.

"The court should go further, and rule that Mr. Frederick’s rights were infringed. Students do not have the right to interfere substantially with school activities, but Mr. Frederick did not do that. The court should use this case to reaffirm Tinker’s famous pronouncement that students do not shed their right to free speech 'at the schoolhouse gate.'"

* "The only reason we wore sunglasses onstage was because we couldn't stand the sight of the audience." -- John Cale


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