March 6, 2007

You're sick of yourself, a fucking government darling


Barbara Reinhart, Fat Man with Red Pipe, 1989

* Case regarding 'Camaro Joe's' 'Bong Hits for Jesus' banner to be heard by the Supreme Court. excerpt (but read the whole thing):

"The long journey started five years ago, on a quiet afternoon at Juneau-Douglas High School, as a student sat alone in the commons area reading Albert Camus' novel 'The Stranger.'

"In mid-March the road ends at the U.S. Supreme Court, where the nationally watched 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' case will test the limits of free speech in public schools.

"Joe Frederick was an 18-year-old senior back then. His classes were done for the day, and 'Camaro Joe,' as some kids called him, was waiting for his girlfriend to finish so he could give her a ride home. As Frederick recalls the story, a vice principal approached and told him he couldn't stay in the commons without supervision. He would have to leave the campus to wait for her.

"Frederick refused. He insisted he had a right to sit quietly in his own school and read a French existentialist. Two Juneau police officers were summoned, and Frederick left after they threatened to arrest him for trespass.

"The next morning at school, Frederick turned his chair around and sat with his back to the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance.

"'This was my symbolic protest against a school administration that clearly lacked common sense and abused its power to retaliate against anyone who dared question their authority,' he wrote later in a mini-autobiography where he quoted Thoreau, Voltaire and Martin Luther King.

"Frederick said his father was summoned to the school to discuss a possible suspension. School officials say they have no record of the incident.

"Regarding a suspension at that point, the Supreme Court was already clear. In the unsettled world of free speech rights in public schools the right to refuse to salute the flag is one of the few established points.

"After that, Frederick said, he resolved to find a free speech protest that would draw wider notice.

"He found one. On Jan. 24, 2002, Frederick and friends unfurled a 14-foot paper banner with duct-tape letters reading 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus.' They were standing on a sidewalk opposite the high school during a public Olympic-torch parade attended by students and teachers.

"The phrase, which they'd spotted on a snowboard sticker at a local ski slope, was meant to be funny, provocative and nonsensically ambiguous, Frederick said. To school officials, it was an open challenge to their anti-drug policies, at what they deemed a school event.

"Principal Deborah Morse crossed the street and crumpled up the banner.

"Frederick's move -- and the school's stern response -- had more impacts than he ever imagined. The incident gave way to his suspension from school, several arrests by Juneau police, a lawsuit against the city settled in his favor, the loss of his father's job and, eventually, the departure of father and son from Alaska and the United States."

"It also resulted in a court case, Morse v. Frederick, that has climbed through the federal system and will be up for oral argument in the Supreme Court on March 19.

"Frederick, now 23, still sounded like the defiant student existentialist Friday in a teleconference from China, where he is teaching high school English.

"'I wanted to know more precisely the boundaries of my freedom,' he said when reporters asked why he'd raised the banner. 'I feel that if you don't use your rights you lose them.'"
...
"Backup at this point has come to include the National School Boards Association, former federal drug czar William J. Bennett and the solicitor general of the United States. Arguing for free on behalf of the Juneau School Board is Kenneth Starr, the former independent prosecutor whose investigation led to the impeachment of President Clinton.

"Frederick has drawn reinforcements, too. The American Civil Liberties Union has worked with Juneau lawyer Doug Mertz since the original case was filed in April 2002. They went to court after the school board refused to erase Frederick's eight-day suspension from his record.

"Among other friends-of-the-court on Frederick's side are a half-dozen Christian and constitutional rights organizations who say they are looking past the 'ill-advised stunt' to worry about future censorship of religious or 'pro-family' expression in public schools. Also submitting briefs for him are groups supporting drug-policy reform and gay rights as well as booksellers, librarians and feminists.
...
"Meanwhile Frederick's father had lost his job, in part because of the federal lawsuit his son filed against the school board.

"Frank Frederick was in a tight spot, to be sure. He was a risk manager for the school district's insurance company. The company was facing big legal fees because of the federal suit. The senior Frederick agreed to shield himself from anything touching on the legal case. But after refusing to intervene with his son, he was demoted and eventually fired, according to his lawsuit against Alaska Public Entity Insurance. The case, which turned on other issues as well, ended with a jury award to Frederick of $200,000 plus interest and fees.

"Frank Frederick has since found himself unable to get a job in the insurance industry, said Mertz. With no aid from his father, Joe Frederick said, he dropped out after his first year of college. His father eventually found work teaching English in China, and Joe recently joined him there."
...
"Juneau lawyer David Crosby, who represented the schools in the early rounds of the case, said Frederick has 'delusions of grandeur.'

"'The Bong Hits case is an interesting one, and the district has not gotten a whole lot of sympathy from the press. So be it,' Crosby said via e-mail last week."

* "I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic fascism . . . The only way to react is to get up in the morning and start the day by saying four or five vastly politically incorrect things before breakfast!" -- P.D. James

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