Limits of free speech

Sure, we cannot simply criminalize lying, but there’s lying and then there’s fradulent mis-representation.  Here’s the latest to make the Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will review whether a federal law that makes it a crime to lie about receiving a military honor violates free speech rights.

A sharply divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled this year that the Stolen Valor Act passed overwhelmingly by Congress was unconstitutional. The chief judge of the circuit, Alex Kozinski, said it would be “terrifying” to permit the government to decide which sorts of lies could be prosecuted.

Okay, maybe I’m taking the quote out of context, but the suggestion is absurd on its face.  Of course the government can decide this.  If I lie to my wife and say, “no honey, those jeans don’t make your butt look big” of course that’s none of the government’s business (though, actually, they don’t.  She also recently did Weight Watchers to great success).   On the other hand, if I say buy my product, it will grow hair on your head, but it’s just saline– that’s illegal.  Or, if I (or, at least a financial professional) say, buy this stock, I happen to have inside information that the company is going to have big profits and I know the exact opposite (and stand to profit from your foolish buy), I’m pretty sure that’s securities fraud.  Of course government regulates lying all the time.  Maybe lying about a military record doesn’t rise to this level, but surely this is somewhere government does draw line.   Without reading in great detail– giving oneself a false record of military heroism strikes me as something almost invariably done for fraudulent personal gain and thus much closer to illegal fraud than a typical lie.

Temporary new blog theme

Something has gone wrong with my blog when you follow the main link to it.  It still works when you link to a particular post, but not when you just go to the main address:  And WordPress support isn’t taking any emails today.  Anyway, it seems to be related to the theme, so I am using this one temporarily because it seems to work and is reasonably similar to the Bueno theme I love, but is not working.

Anyway, I’m heading to the NC State Fair soon to indulge in my favorite of fair foods, the elephant ear, so this is about all you’ll get from me today.

Obama defeat or Government working like it is supposed to?

Judging by the headlines I saw on-line, you would have think that Obama’s health care plan was now a miserable failure because the government decided not to go forward with a portion of it that covered long-term care for the elderly.  Turned out– as conservatives warned– it was going to be just too expensive.  So, what did the Obama administration do?  Double-down, ignore reality, and insist they were going to somehow make it work despite evidence to the contrary (hmmm, cannot think of any administrations that might have done that)?  Or, face facts, admit reality, and cancel the program even though they support it’s goals?  Well, the latter, of course,  Kevin Drum makes a nice case for how this is an excellent example of “good government” from the Obama administration:

What happened here is that government worked exactly the way it ought to. The CLASS Act was passed in a fog of rosy estimates and emotional appeals (it was one of Ted Kennedy’s longstanding priorities), and the Department of Health and Human Services immediately began the detailed work of writing the implementing regulations to get it up and running. And guess what? They did their work honestly and conscientiously. Even though it was a liberal program promoted by a longtime liberal icon, HHS analysts eventually concluded that its conservative critics were right and the program as passed was flawed. So they killed it. And most of the liberal healthcare wonks that I read seem to agree that, unfortunately, HHS was right.

This is how we all want government to work. And it turns out that Obama agrees. This is apparently how he wants government to work too, and it’s a pretty clear demonstration that Obama isn’t the kind of hyperpartisan extreme lefty that conservatives like to paint him as. He’s a guy who wants government to function well and honestly, and if it doesn’t, he’s willing to shut down a program that doesn’t work even though it upsets his own party and provides campaign fodder to his opponents. When was the last time a Republican president did anything like that?

I’m sure there’s an answer to Drum’s question– it’s just not coming to me.

UPDATE: If you want to know more, Jon Cohn gives it a really thorough run-down.  Same basic point holds.

%d bloggers like this: