Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hard to understand court’s inane medal ruling

You may have thought that the U.S. Supreme Court would be smarter than, say, a songwriter.

But you would be wrong about that.

A songwriter long ago wrote that it’s a sin to tell a lie.

Not so, says the Supreme Court. In a recent decision, it opined that you can lie about anything you wish, because no matter what you say, it’s free speech.

Thankfully for the political process, this dopey decision came along just in time for the current election season. Office seekers can now make up whoppers, every day. Probably nothing new about that. Just don’t try to correct them. Lying is free speech.

Now, I am a confirmed believer in free speech.

But I always thought there were certain things you shouldn’t do in the name of free speech, like lying, or hollering “fire” in a crowded theater.

Unless, of course, there happened to be a real fire in the theater. At that point it would be OK to holler “Fire.”

Not any longer. Hollering “Fire” when there is no fire may be a lie, but it is free speech.

The individual we have to thank for this nonsense is one Xavier Alvarez, a 54-year-old California man who was convicted of falsely claiming he had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

It is the nation’s highest award for valor. Lower courts that heard arguments on Xavier’s unwarranted attempts at bravado thought he was nuts. But not six ninnies on the Supreme Court. (Ninnie, just by way of explanation, is short for nincompoop.)

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who led this exercise in lunacy, was willing to forgive Xavier because lying is part of his lifestyle, and if it were something he was accustomed to doing, that would make it all right.

“Lying was his habit,” Kennedy proclaimed in writing the opinion that led five fellow justices over the edge of the cliff of logic into the murky waters of stupidity.

Kennedy pointed out that Xavier also lied when he claimed he played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, and that he had once married a starlet from Mexico. The guy obviously had a way with words.

Just so you’ll know who Kennedy’s partners were in failing to have a rudimentary grasp of reality in this matter, their names are John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Steven Breyer and Elena Kagan.

The latter two liked the decision so much they even went to the trouble of writing a concurring opinion.

Three justices saw the obvious, that it isn’t OK to lie about being a Medal of Honor winner and making such a ridiculous claim is not free speech. They were Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, without question the clearest thinker on the court, and Clarence Thomas.

Joining the three dissenters in proclaiming the decision a farce were such patriots as the founders of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society — plus me and all of my friends and, I presume, yourself, because I know you are not dim-witted or you would be doing something else at the moment other that reading this piece.

In his majority opinion, Kennedy came to the stunning conclusion that “fundamental constitutional principles require that laws enacted to honor the brave must be consistent with the precepts of the Constitution for which they fought.”

Scalia must have groaned when he read that.

If anyone should understand “the precepts of the Constitution” you would think it would be a Supreme Court justice.

Apparently not.

Audie Murphy would be turning over in his grave. So would be Gordie Howe, the greatest of the Detroit Red Wings.

Not to mention every Mexican starlet who thinks Xavier is a head case.

Next time you tweet the six pinheads on the nation’s highest court, tell them they better watch out,  because your uncle is a hit man for The Mob, and he doesn’t like people who put on black robes and don’t have the common sense to go along with it.

By the way, did I ever tell you that my father invented a refreshing soft drink he called Eight Up but it never caught on. Maybe if he’d called it Six Up...


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