Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from March, 2011

The Philadelphia School District has blocked me from following its Twitter account

The Philadelphia Inquirer has done first-rate work this week with its series on violence in Philadelphia public schools. The overall effect of the series has been to re-affirm for me—based on prior observations—that Supt. Arlene Ackerman and the district leadership are more concerned with clamping down on critics and whistleblowers than they are with fixing the district's substantive problems.

My opinion was reinforced today when the @PhillyEducation, the district's official Twitter feed, decided to mount a sustained attack on the Philadelphia Daily News for running a Photoshopped picture of Ackerman with a chainsaw in her hands—to illustrate coming budget cuts. Word of the feud got around quickly, and I did two things:

* I decided to follow @PhillyEducation's feed.

* I offered a series of my own Tweets criticizing the district for how it was handling the situation. I aimed my Tweets at Tara Murtha, a writer at Philadelphia Weekly, whose Tweet first alerted me to the imbr…

Today in inequality reading: Joseph Stiglitz in Vanity Fair

Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1% | Society | Vanity Fair: "America’s inequality distorts our society in every conceivable way. There is, for one thing, a well-documented lifestyle effect—people outside the top 1 percent increasingly live beyond their means. Trickle-down economics may be a chimera, but trickle-down behaviorism is very real. Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that. Foreign policy, by definition, is about the balancing of national interests and national resources. With the top 1 percent in charge, and paying no price, the notion of balance and restraint goes out the window. There is no limit to the adventures we can undertake; corporations and contractor…

Bill James defends the jockocracy

Noted baseball stats expert Bill James has an interesting piece at Slate in which he suggests that the sports world does a much better job of identifying and promoting talent than, well, pretty much every other segment of society. "The average city the size of Topeka produces a major league player every 10 or 15 years. If we did the same things for young writers, every city would produce a Shakespeare or a Dickens or at least a Graham Greene every 10 or 15 years," he writes. (And am I the only one who thinks he sounds like Malcolm Gladwell in this piece?) But I think he gets weirdly defensive at the end.
Because the sporting world was always ahead of the rest of the world in breaking racial barri­ers, black kids came to perceive sports as being the pathway out of poverty. For this we are now harshly and routinely criticized—as if it was our fault that the rest of society hasn't kept up. Some jackass Ph.D ex-athlete pops up on my TV two or three times a year claiming that …

Fatimah Ali leaves the Daily News

I'm not a particular fan of Fatimah Ali; I thought her column last week advocating school prayer was several different kinds of wrongheaded. Yet I'm somewhat troubled this morning to learn that she's being forced out at the Daily News:
Several months ago, I began ponder the possibility that I might not be at the Daily News forever. I saw small signals that indicated how far apart I might be from the paper's edgy new perspective.

SO IT CAME as no surprise when I was told last week that today's column would be my last. But I remain a committed communicator, as well as a believer that God's time is always best.Because I'm not really a fan of Ali, I suppose it's possible that Larry Platt is merely clearing away some of the more stale elements of the Daily News as he continues to remake the paper. But given his track record in the first months, it's also possible that he's dispensing with a lesser-known voice in order to import another celebrity colum…

The New York Times stops blaming the rape victim; Jonah Goldberg might want to take notice

The New York Times has revisited the story of the 11-year-old Texas girl who was allegedly raped by more than a dozen men. It doesn't acknowledge the story is an act of penance for its earlier victim-blaming piece on the same topic, although editor Bill Keller said as much in an aside in his Sunday column.

It turns out that the girl wasn't victimized one time, but repeatedly over a period of months.
The arrests have raised fundamental questions about how a girl might have been repeatedly abused by many men and boys in a tightly knit community without any adult intervening, or even seeming to register that something was amiss, until sexually explicit videos of the victim began circulating in local schools.

“It wasn’t that anyone was asleep,” said the Rev. Travis Hulett Jr., the pastor of the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, which anchors the Precinct 20 neighborhood where most of the defendants live. “You can be awake and see things and still not do anything.”A tight-knit …

The fight over delivering cable to my iPad

I don't have Time Warner service, but this New York Times story about that company's new iPad app—it live-streams TV programming to the tablet to cable subscribers using the device in their home—is interesting. Apparently the TV networks think Time Warner is horning in on their business:
But some channel owners say that companies like Time Warner Cable should be consulting with them more closely before introducing new products. “Portability is a different business proposition,” said an executive at one of the major channel owners, suggesting that there should be a premium paid for the ability to take a TV show into bed or into the bathtub. One commercial for Time Warner Cable’s app actually shows a person watching TV on a tablet while taking a bath.Portability is a different proposition—if true portability is involved. (By which I mean: I can take my iPad to the cafe down the street and watch CNN on it.) But that's not the Time Warner app. As the Times notes: "The iPad…

The Koch brothers' mighty big bootstraps

I don't have a particular dislike for the Koch brothers; perhaps that's a consequence of having grown up in Kansas and knowing people who have worked for for their company. But a lot of the ire directed their way from the left strikes me as basically a much-less-anti-Semitic version of the hysteria the right routinely whips up about George Soros. They should be paid attention, but there's a limit to the usefulness of scapegoating them.

That said, Matthew Continetti could've saved himself some time on his Weekly Standard profile of the brothers by farming the work directly to their public relations team. The shared grievance--People are criticizing us because we got involved in politics? The horror!--is laid on a little thick at times. But the part that really caught my eye was the description of how the brothers have increased the value of their company since taking it over from their father in the 1960s:
Fred was a towering personality. “My father was a man of enormous…

Ta-Nehisi Coates to the New York Times: A really bad idea

I've seen this idea surface in several places, most recently Andrew Sullivan's blog, and I'd like to nip it in the bud:
I read your item on Bob Herbert's resignation with interest, as you summarized my sentiments precisely. As way of replacement, I hope the Times considers Ta-Nehisi Coates, even though I have no idea whether he's even interested in the perch. It's not because they're both African-American; Ta-Nehisi writes about similar issues with twice the wit and grace that Herbert could muster. It would be a shame to see those issues drop off the table with Herbert's resignation, and it would represent a real promotion to one of the most talented American pundits out there.I'm a huge fan of Coates--at this point, in fact, his career represents what I'd like to achieve with my own: He's largely self-taught; he knows what he doesn't know; he's liberal without being knee-jerk about it; and he is contemplative and graceful in addressi…

Today in inequality reading: 'The sad but true story of wages in America'

The Economic Policy Institute crunches some wage numbers in a new paper:
Recent debates about whether public- or private-sector workers earn more have obscured a larger truth: all workers have suffered from decades of stagnating wages despite large gains in productivity. The current public discussion illogically pits state and local government employees against private workers, when both groups have failed to sufficiently benefit from the economic fruits of their labors. This paper examines trends in the compensation of public (state and local government) and private-sector employees relative to the growth of productivity over the past two decades.

These data underscore that there is a bigger story than public versus private compensation and a more penetrating set of questions to ask than who has more than whom. The ability of the economy to produce more goods and services has not translated into greater compensation for either group of workers. Why has pay fared so poorly overall? Why…

Billy Eger doesn't like my column on Libya

Even when I criticize Barack Obama, Billy Eger gets mad. His latest missive:
If that was bush I guarantee you would've written more than,perhaps the president did the right thing by intervening in Libya,but he certainly did it the wrong way. I call BS. Who is he attacking,an why,those aren't civilians they're Muslim brotherhood,they were busses there just like union thugs were too Wisconsin by SOROS,you really only have 2 braincells an 1 is out looking for the other,do you think the Muslims you support wouldnt hesitate to cut your head off an your children's heads after they're done using u too overthrow are govt. If you think they are so friendly u should b able too walk streets over there wo worry an harm,I doubt you would come back unscathed.think retard use the brain god gave u,its your arrogance that affects ur thinking,I feel sorry for your kids
billy from wickliffe

Single-Tasking Sundays

More than a decade ago, I read a news story about a man who took a vow of silence--once a week. The world was so full of noise that he decided every Sunday was a day he would no longer add to the cacophony. Six days a week he looked and acted normal; the Sabbath he kept holy, more or less.

The world, of course, has only gotten noisier for many of us since the turn of the millennium. And for the most part, I welcome the advances that bring us the noise: blogs and Twitter and the iPad, among other developments, have made me better-informed and (I think) my life a bit richer. It is sometimes a bit much. And like a lot of folks, I have sought to ensure that I control the noise I receive, instead of the other way around. (I become more concerned about such control when I see my young son's facility and obsession with computers and iEverything.) There have been moments--fleeting to be sure-- that I have been tempted to cast all electronics out of my house a live a comfortable life of c…

Obama, Congress and Libya

I'm a little bit down on the president in this week's Scripps column:
Barack Obama was an attractive candidate to liberals in 2008 in part because he offered the promise of reining in the "imperial presidency" that had flourished under President George W. Bush, particularly when it came to military action abroad.

"The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation," then-candidate Obama told the Boston Globe in 2007. He added: "History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action."

Obama's actions in the last week -- committing the United States to military action in Libya with only the most-meager attempt to inform and i…

Officer William Giulian says that Philadelphians who care about civil liberties are the real racists

Infuriating letter to the editor in today's Philadelphia Daily News from Officer William Giulian, responding to Marc Lamont Hill's column last week about the illegal traffic stop he endured. (The city settled his lawsuit instead of filing it.)

Some excerpts:
Now, today, I have to read about the struggle an apparently educated but blatantly racist college professor (aka Marc Lamont Hill) must go through on a day-to-day basis - oh, the humanity. His entire day was interfered with for five, maybe 10 minutes by a working police officer.

You have some brass ones to question why a police officer approaches a car he's pulled over to investigate, for a legitimate purpose (whether you agree with that or not doesn't matter), with his hand either over or on his weapon?

How about asking the family of Danny Boyle why we do that, or Sgt. Liczbinski's kids, or Daniel Faulkner's wife? I'd say to ask them, but you can't - they're dead, murdered in cold blood for sim…

Today in agnostic biblical literacy: Southern Baptists and single pastors

Today's NYT has an interesting story about single pastors and their inability to get hired because churches want to hire married men with children. Naturally, there's a justification:
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said it was unfair to accuse churches of discrimination because that word implied something “wrongful.”

“Both the logic of Scripture and the centrality of marriage in society,” he said, justify “the strong inclination of congregations to hire a man who is not only married but faithfully married.”

Mr. Mohler said he tells the students at his seminary that “if they remain single, they need to understand that there’s going to be a significant limitation on their ability to serve as a pastor.”Now, I know, I know: I'm agnostic. And I also believe the Apostle Paul was kind of nuts. But Paul did write a fair amount of scripture, including lots of stuff that suggested that he saw marriage as desirable only inso…

There will be no more hope and change

I don't agree with President Obama's decision to militarily intervene in Libya, but it's a somewhat close call: I can easily see how reasonable people of good motivations can come to a different conclusion than I did. But I'm quite unhappy with how the process played out: Almost zero consultation with Congress, which does possess the Constitutional power to declare war. *

* Conservatives are noting that liberals aren't mounting anti-war protests, proving their Bush-era anger was largely an exercise in tribalism. Perhaps, but I note that I'm not seeing Tea Partiers scream angrily about the lack of Congressional consultation. Everybody's stupid, in other words. 

My anger at the Bush Administration stemmed, in large part, not just from the stupid invasions and illegal torture that it ordered, but its underlying theory of governance that seemed to do away with the checks and balances provided by Congress.  As bad as the Bush Administration was, though, it still …

Roooooowr!

Taken at Fitler Square

Balance beam

Taken at Taney Playground

T at the Italian Market

Taken at Italian Market

I'm against intervening in Libya

You can take the boy out of the Mennonite Church, but you can't always take the Mennonite Church out of the boy: It's been nearly a decade since I walked away from my faith, but the pacifist foundation I acquired during those days still largely shapes my outlook.

Largely, but not completely. I believe the United States was right to topple the Taliban and go after Al Qaeda sanctuaries in Afghanistan following 9/11: I think nations have the right to self-defense. But I was against the Iraq invasion—I'm against defense so pre-emptive we don't even know if any threat is actually going to emerge—and I'm against President Obama's decision to instigate a limited war in Libya.

Why?

Well, it's not because I love Col. Qaddafi. I think he's a bad man who does bad things, and I'll be happy when his reign comes to an end. I'm rooting for the Libyans rebelling against him.

I just haven't heard a clear and convincing reason why the United States should get…

First cookie of spring.

Taken at Almaz Cafe

Time to end nuclear power?

Events are still unfolding in Japan; Ben Boychuk and I discuss the future of the domestic nuclear power industry in this week's Scripps Howard column. My take:
It's not time to put the kibosh on nuclear power in the United States.

It's also not time to make it a lot easier to build a plant.

And understand: Building a nuclear power plant in the United States is very difficult. It costs lots of money and takes many years of moving through an excruciatingly slow permitting process. Advocates of nuclear power have spent recent years urging that the process be streamlined -- and some environmentalists, seeing nuclear power as an alternative to carbon-belching fossil fuels, have even started to support that view.

They're wrong. The bar to building a nuclear plant should be almost prohibitively high. The permitting process should be slow -- giving engineers and government officials a chance to consider and address all the ways disaster could afflict a plant -- and construction…

Looking forward to the day Philadelphia residents write for the Philadelphia Daily News*

If there's a trend to Larry Platt's columnist hires at the Philadelphia Daily News—aside from the fact that his "new"voices are familiar faces—it's that many of them seem not to bother being in Philadelphia that much.

Buzz Bissinger lives at least part-time in the Pacific Northwest. Ombudsman Richard Aregood is planted in North Dakota. And Marc Lamont Hill's main professional gig these days is at Columbia University ... in New York. Ed Rendell apparently still lives in Pennsylvania, at least, but he's writing about sports—and despite the former governor's enthusiasm, I actually don't care at all what he thinks about the topic. (I've tried reading his sports columns. They're boring, and would be utterly unremarkable were it not for the fact that Big Ed was writing them.)

Now, these guys all have far deeper roots in Philadelphia than I do, admittedly, so my grounds for criticism are maybe pretty thin. But the great thing about the Daily News…

About Virgil Peck, Southeast Kansas, and state legislatures

A friend, knowing that I was born in Southeast Kansas and spent a couple of years working there, asks me about Virgil Peck. He's the state legislator who advocated shooting illegal immigrants like feral swine, then semi-apologized for it by saying: “I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person."

Is that the way a Southeast Kansas person talks?

Yes. No. Kind of.

Southeast Kansas isn't really what most people think of when they think "Kansas." (I assume most people think flat, full of wheat fields, etc.) It's hilly country, with more trees than the rest of the state, and lots of abandoned mines that flourished a half-century or more ago. It is relatively poor, relatively uneducated, and a fairly depressing place to be. (At least, that's how I saw it during the two years I worked at the Parsons Sun, right after college.) In some ways, it has more in common with Arkansas and the Ozarks—which are relatively nearby—than with any other conception of "…

In defense of Planned Parenthood

Federal funding for Planned Parenthood is this week's topic of my Scripps column with Ben Boychuk. I suspect my pro-choice friends will not think me vigorous enough in defending the right to abortion, but my mindset was to persuade pro-lifers—to the extent they can be convinced—that Planned Parenthood is worthy of federal support. My take:
For many years now, pro-choice liberals have accused pro-life conservatives of being more concerned about the lives of the unborn than they are of living, breathing human beings. Often, that charge is a bit over-the-top and unfair. In the case of the Planned Parenthood debate, it's not.

In the course of a single year, Planned Parenthood carries out nearly 1 million screenings for cervical cancers. More than 800,000 breast exams. It provides contraception to nearly 2.5 million women. And it performs roughly 4 million tests for sexually transmitted diseases.

Planned Parenthood, in other words, helps keep a great many women healthy. The agency&…

A quick note about James O'Keefe and 'undercover journalism'

James O'Keefe has a couple of NPR scalps on his belt, and good for him I guess. Jonah Goldberg tweets, "I remember when undercover stings are what made '60 Minutes' America's greatest journalistic enterprise," presumably hitting at hypocrite liberals who are irritated by O'Keefe's stings.

But O'Keefe's brand of journalism owes more to "Borat" than to "60 Minutes." In Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen's M.O. was to walk into situations and be the biggest, most annoying jerk he could. Sometimes people were irritated, in which case the comedy came from their consternation, or they remained polite—in which case the comedy came from them accommodating a huge jerk in their midst.

O'Keefe, I don't think, has ever unconvered real malfeasance at the organization he targets. Instead, he's mostly taken advantage of humankind's natural tendency to avoid confrontation or to be a little too solicitous. He's the kind of guy…

In the New York Times: Blaming the 11-year-old victim of a gang rape?

An awful story this morning from Texas, where 18 young men and teen boys are under suspicion for gang-raping an 11-year-old girl—under threat of being beaten if she didn't comply. The story includes this paragraph:
Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.I try to avoid using this language in public, mostly, but I think it might be appropriate here: Fuck. That. Shit.

This paragraph doesn't explicitly say that the 11-year-old girl brought a gang rape under threat of beating upon herself, but it certainly implies it. And it does so, as far as I can tell, without any pushback from a responsible person who might say, quite reasonably: "No matter how an 11-year-old girl dresses, there is nev…

NYT: Nation better prepared for rising gas prices

I, too, am better prepared for the rising cost of gasoline this time around. I live in the city and don't have a car!

It's true that some of my costs will still go up, in the form of rising prices on food and goods that have been shipped to Philadelphia, where I live. But not having and using a car provides a rather substantial cushion against the shock of an oil-price spike. I guess this lifestyle isn't for everybody, but—despite the overall higher costs of living in a city than living in Kansas—it's probably better-suited to my pocketbook.

Today in inequality reading: CAP and employee compensation

One of the things that has struck me as unjust about growing income inequality in the United States is that American workers have vastly increased their productivity over the last three decades—and yet have seen almost no income growth as a result. Today, the Center for American Progress offers a suggestion to solve that issue—suggesting, in essence, that all employees (and not just top executives) share in a firm's growing wealth:
The reform encourages firms to develop broad-based incentive compensation systems that link employee earnings to the performance of the firm. This reform would give employees access to the capital-related earnings of their companies comparable to that of the senior executives who run these firms.

Specifically, our plan would give favorable tax treatment to compensation systems that link incentive pay to company performance if all of the company’s full-time employees participated in them and if the value expended on the top 5 percent of employees by sala…

Fan mail: Charlie Sheen

Ed Spondike, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite correspondents, writes in response to this week's Scripps column about Charlie Sheen. An excerpt:
I must comment on one statement that was in your column. "Too much wealth and privilege can be corrosive in the wrong hands. And there's nothing Americans love more than watching the rich and powerful crash and burn." Unfortunately, I have to disagree this statement. Entertainers, including actors, singers, and sports stars, constantly are given multiple chances to redeem themselves from crime and bad behavior. Most of the people who idolize them seem to be quite willing to forgive their transgressions, and in some cases, actually excuse their behavior.
My response: I do think we like to see the rich and powerful crash and burn. But we're all human: We also like to see a good redemption story. If Charlie Sheen can pull himself out of the crazy spiral and come back in five years to earn an Oscar nomination, Am…

Solving the library e-book problem

HarperCollins has announced that it will allow libraries to lend e-books 26 times before demanding those libraries pay, essentially, a replacement fee:
Its sales president, Josh Marwell, believes that's only fair: 26, he claims, is the average number of loans a print book would survive before having to be replaced. ... Clearly, printed books last a lot longer than 26 loans," says Philip Bradley, vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.I'm also skeptical that a print book only lasts 26 checkouts. And I'm interested in the topic since I finished reading an e-book edition of Neil Sheehan's "A Fiery Peace in a Cold War" that was "borrowed" from the Philadelphia Free Library. What's frustrating about HarperCollins' idea is that it tries to force a print-book scarcity business model upon e-books. That's unnecessary, and probably dumb. Why not come up with a new model that fits the new medium?

Her…

The only thing I plan to write about Charlie Sheen

Believe it or not, that's what this week's Scripps column is about. It started out as a response to S.T. Karnick's blog post at The American Culture asserting that Sheen's recent Tour of Self-Destruction signified some deeper illness in American society—an illness due to "moral relativism."

My take:
Is there a larger societal lesson to be learned from Charlie Sheen? Not really.

If Sheen has taught us anything, it's stuff we've known for a long time: Too much wealth and privilege can be corrosive in the wrong hands. And there's nothing Americans love more than watching the rich and powerful crash and burn.

But nobody's really endorsing Sheen's behavior or making excuses for him. Where's the relativism? Who is looking at Sheen and offering him up as an example for our youth? Who is endorsing the idea that it is OK to go on cocaine binges, abuse your wife and flake out on your job ... if that's what you really want to do? Nobody, excep…

On Westboro, Sarah Palin and the First Amendment

Sarah Palin doesn't like the Westboro decision:
Common sense & decency absent as wacko "church" allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers' funerals but we can't invoke God's name in public squareSo let me just point out: Today's decision further guarantees the right of Palin to march her family and her church down to a public square and talk about God all they want! By protecting Fred Phelps' right to speech, Palin's rights have been preserved, too!

Of course, Palin isn't talking about the right of individuals to proclaim their views and faith in public. She's talking about the right of government to essentially subsidize and sponsor religious expressions in the public square. And ... that's not what government is supposed to do. It's prohibited. And for good reason.

Either Palin doesn't understand the distinction, or she's demagoguing it. Either way, shame on her for trying to make her fellow Americans dumber about the issues…

Samuel Alito's weird dissent in the Westboro case

Samuel Alito offered the only dissent to today's Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to mount its anti-gay pickets at military funerals. If I read the dissent correctly, he claims the First Amendment didn't protect Westboro's picket of Matthew Snyder's funeral because some of picketing material might've implied that Snyder himself—a private individual—was gay:
Other signs would most naturally have been understood
as suggesting—falsely—that Matthew was gay. Homosexuality was the theme of many of the signs. There were
signs reading “God Hates Fags,” “Semper Fi Fags,” “Fags
Doom Nations,” and “Fag Troops.” Id., at 3781–3787.
Another placard depicted two men engaging in anal intercourse. A reasonable bystander seeing those signs would
have likely concluded that they were meant to suggest
that the deceased was a homosexual.And later:
In light of this evidence, it is abundantly clear that
respondents, going far beyond com…

Chief Justice Roberts: Protecting Westboro's hate speech makes America great

And I agree:
Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move
them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and—as it did here—
inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react
to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation we
have chosen a different course—to protect even hurtful
speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle
public debate. That choice requires that we shield Westboro from tort liability for its picketing in this case.

More quotes from the SCOTUS ruling on Westboro Baptist Church

I find this section interesting:
Westboro’s choice to convey its views in conjunction with
Matthew Snyder’s funeral made the expression of those
views particularly hurtful to many, especially to Matthew’s father. The record makes clear that the applicable
legal term—“emotional distress”—fails to capture fully the
anguish Westboro’s choice added to Mr. Snyder’s already
incalculable grief. But Westboro conducted its picketing
peacefully on matters of public concern at a public place
adjacent to a public street. Such space occupies a “special
position in terms of First Amendment protection.”

(Snip)

Simply put, the church members had the right to be
where they were. Westboro alerted local authorities to its
funeral protest and fully complied with police guidance on
where the picketing could be staged. The picketing was
conducted under police supervision some 1,000 feet from
the church, out of the sight of those at the church. The
protest was not unruly; there was no sh…

Westboro Baptist Church wins in the Supreme Court. Good.

Still reading the SCOTUS ruling, but here's a key part early:
Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials. It did not disrupt Mathew Snyder’s funeral, and its choice to picket at that time and place did not alter the nature of its
speech. Because this Nation has chosen to protect even hurtful
speech on public issues to ensure that public debate is not stifled,
Westboro must be shielded from tort liability for its picketing in this
case. I think this is the right decision. As I wrote in the Scripps column last October:
The case has been broadly portrayed as the church causing offense by inflicting itself upon a grieving family at the funeral of Snyder's son. The facts are somewhat different. Westboro members did indeed set up a picket -- but as required by law, they were 1,000 feet away from the funeral when it occurred. Snyder's family only encountered Phelps' vile w…

About that NYT poll on unions

It would be nice if the Times' poll focused on the feelings of Wisconsin residents. But since the assault on unions transcends Wisconsin, the poll is still valuable. Here's what it finds:
Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.
Now: If I remember my health care debate correctly, Republicans believe that polls showing this level of opposition to a policy makes that policy democratically illegitimate. I'm sure they'll follow through on their rhetoric and cease their union-busting activities immediately.