O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
The Solicitor General is the cheese at the U.S. Justice Department who represents the federal government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. As I stick my toe into Lake Blog for the first time, the acting cheese's name is Paul Clement, and I'm having a frabjous day because he's just announced he's NOT going to represent the federal government before the Supreme Court in an ugly pissing match between skunks called ACLU et al., v. Norman Y. Mineta.
Norman is the Secretary of Transportation, and he was dragged into this mess because he doles out federal funds to mass transportation systems -- or not, as Congress directs him to, or not.
And last year, Congress ordered him not to dole out any federal funds to any subway or bus or commuter rail system that runs ads which advocate legalizing or decriminalizing or liberalizing or reforming our nation's marijuana laws.
Here's one of the ads the ACLU et al tried to put up in Washington DC's subways:
Oh, wait! For God's sake, don't open this ad if any kids under 30 are looking! Okay, have all the kids left the room? Are you sure? Okay, you can open the ad now.
Norman was just doing the bidding of U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, Republican of Oklahoma, who stuck this little bonbon into the Transportation budget because he was outraged that subway-riding citizens might see, and think about, suggestions that making criminals of pot-smokers, and sending them to jail, and branding them with a lifelong criminal record -- well, that these laws really suck, and that sane people who don't like to stab themselves in the thigh with a fork should think about changing these laws.
Did you open the ad? Well, there you have it: The ACLU et al clearly wants to abduct your children, strip them naked, tie them to chairs, and force them to smoke pot, which they distribute free to children.
Actually, no. Nobody's smoking pot in the ad. Nobody's advocating pot in the ad. Nobody says Pot Is Good in the ad.
The ad urges voters to think about our state and federal pot laws, to think about the damage these laws have done over the past thirty years.
Maybe pot's bad. But the laws that make pot a crime are much worse.
That's what these ads said. And that's why Istook wanted to punish any subway system that sold space to display these ads. Display these ads, lose million$ in federal grants.
There is, of course, a teensy-weensy problem with that.
Every mass transit system in the USA is currently plastered with government-sponsored ads that merrily describe marihuana as the Demon Weed From Satanic Terrorist Hell, which is destroying our nation's Youth, and causing Todd and Tifani to dance the hootchy-koo, have sex, and then murder their parents.
If you want to take the bus to the mall, you MUST see the government ads. But Istook et al passed a law to make sure you can NEVER see ads that say the government ads are just loopy propaganda crap.
As ACLU et al., v. Norman Y. Mineta climbed its way up the federal courts, Acting Solicitor General Clement could see the handwriting on the wall, and knew how the Supreme Court would decide this First Amendment jalapeño. So he just broke Rep. Istook's heart: He announced that the Justice Department will not appeal a lower court decision that declared the Istook Amendment unconstitutional.
Let the reeform ads begin! Let there be light! Let the citizens read, and ponder, and think, and dialogue, and contemplate!
The banned ads aren't like liquor ads, which urge cool people (who look suspiciously like teenage hotties and buff preppie Todds to me) to buy Blatz and Schlitz.
The banned ads urge people to vote against idiots like Istook, and ponder this business of reforming or repealing state and federal marijuana laws.
And that's Constitutionally protected political speech. One side says "Keep busting everybody for smoking pot forever! It's the American way!"
So the other side has the right to say, "Stop busting everybody for smoking pot. Get real. Lights on in your heads. Straighten up and fly right."
If one side can plaster its advocacy message in a public bus or subway system, so can the other.
There's a guy named Joe White about 20 miles north of me. We've never spoken or met, but I think I want to buy him a big pastrami sandwich on pumpernickel. He runs Change the Climate, the outfit that started this skunk piss festival. Change the Climate creates and tries to buy subway and bus space for marijuana law reform ads.
The Boston "T" subway system refused. Change the Climate et al sued. I loved The T's argument for banning the ads. Boston, they argued, has an ancient and well-known historical tradition of banning things -- books, theater, movies, the hootchy-koo -- and "Banned in Boston" is enshrined in the American vernacular. So the T's lawyers asked the federal judge to respect this local cultural heritage of censorship. (The judge, who is dumb as rocks about the First Amendment, respected this local heritage, and ruled the T could keep banning the ads.)
Looks as if these marijuana law reform ads will soon be on the T anyway, and on the DC Metro, and MARTA, and BART, and (I hope I hope) my Pioneer Valley Transit Authority buses.
American Free Political Speech lives! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!