Oh boy. I really can't wait for the transcript of this Supreme Court case. The Supes have agreed to hear a First Amendment case involving an Alaska teen who was suspended for unfurling a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." The student says he did it as a prank to try to get on TV, but his principal said he'd violated the school rules by promoting drug use. (I guess promoting religion didn't work in his favor.) An appeals court sided with the kid, declaring that his free-speech rights were violated. But the schoolrepresented by Kenneth Starrhas appealed to the Supreme Court. Serious questions of free expression aside, I think it's safe to say this will be the first time the phrase "bong hits" will be uttered in those hallowed halls (any SCOTUS watchers out there know otherwise?). If ever a Supreme Court hearing deserved its own drinking game, this is it.
In our current issue, Sara Shipley Hiles and Marina Walker Guevara investigate how Doe Run, an American mining company, effectively offshored its pollution when it bought a lead smelter in a small city in the Peruvian Andes. Its operation is coating the town of La Oroya in poisonous dust, with devasting effects on the local environment, public health, and especially its kids, many of whom have unacceptably high levels of lead in their systems. Don't miss the story.
But if you want a quick look at what La Oroya looks like and what local residents are saying about the plant, check out this video from Earthjustice, which is part of the legal effort Doe Run to get to clean up its act.
The liberal media strikes again. From page one of today's San Francisco Chronicle:
The article in a nutshell: Bush might still be talking about staying the course in Iraq, but behind the scenes, who knows what the heck he's really thinking or doing? That should be pretty obvious by now, but there's something bracing about seeing that in print in a major newspaper. Even the Chron.
Some interesting observations from yesterday's Supreme Court hearing on whether the federal government has the power to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, via the New York Times. Reading the tea leaves of the justices' reaction to the arguments before them, the Times predicts the court will do its usual 5-4 split on the question, with Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia seem to be in the "pollutant, shmollutant" camp:
"You have to show the harm is imminent," Justice Scalia instructed [Massachussetts assistant attorney general] Mr. Milkey, asking, "I mean, when is the cataclysm?"
Mr. Milkey replied, "It's not so much a cataclysm as ongoing harm," arguing that Massachusetts, New York, and other coastal states faced losing "sovereign territory" to rising sea levels. "So the harm is already occurring," he said. "It is ongoing, and it will happen well into the future."
Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito both suggested that because motor vehicles account for only about 6 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, even aggressive federal regulation would not be great enough to make a difference, another requirement of the standing doctrine.
Meanwhile, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, and David Souter seemed willing to consider that automobile emissions pose a serious environmental threat:
Justice Souter engaged Deputy Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre, the lawyer who was defending the administration's position, in a long debate. When Mr. Garre said the plaintiffs "haven't shown specific facts which should provide any comfort to this court that regulation of less than 6 percent or fewer greenhouse emissions worldwide will have any effect on their alleged injuries," Justice Souter demanded: "Why do they have to show a precise correlation?"
"It is reasonable to suppose," the justice continued, "that some reduction in the gases will result in some reduction in future loss." It was "a question of more or less, not a question of either/or," he said, adding: "They don't have to stop global warming. Their point is that it will reduce the degree of global warming and likely reduce the degree of loss."
Mr. Garre replied that given the problem's global nature, "I'm not aware of any studies available that would suggest that the regulation of that minuscule fraction of greenhouse gas emissions would have any effect whatsoever."
Then Justice Breyer took on the government lawyer. "Would you be up here saying the same thing if we're trying to regulate child pornography, and it turns out that anyone with a computer can get pornography elsewhere?" Justice Breyer asked, adding, "I don't think so."
Clarence Thomas seems to have been reliably silent during the hearing.
What do George W. Bush, Jeffrey Skilling, and the guy who sold some Florida swampland to your grandma have in common? According to Elizabeth de la Vega, they’re all scam artists who deserve to have the book thrown at them. For de la Vega, who spent more than 20 years as a federal prosecutor, that’s not just a cheap shot at Bush, it’s her considered legal opinion. In her new book, United States v. George W. Bush et al., she argues that in snookering us into an unnecessary war in Iraq, the president wasn’t simply guilty of dishonesty or incompetence, but guilty of fraud.