Unbanned in Boston

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Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit told the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority the First Amendment prohibits it from rejecting ads based on their political content. This is at least the third time the MBTA has been chastised for screening out messages it doesn't like. Other cases involved abortion and animal rights; this one involves ads critical of the war on drugs.

The ads' sponsor, Change the Climate, was also behind the Washington, D.C., anti-drug-war messages that provoked a congressional ban on such speech in mass transit systems that receive federal funds. A federal judge overturned that ban in June.

The message from the courts is pretty clear: A government-operated transit system may steer clear of controversy by rejecting all political ads (a course the MBTA is now considering), but it may not pick and choose among ads based on the position they take. While the MBTA's ad guidelines were not unconstitutional on their face, the 1st Circuit said, they were applied in a way that discriminated against a particular point of view.

The federal ban, by contrast, explicitly singled out the opinions it was aimed at squelching. Unlike local bureaucrats, congressional censors don't even pretend to respect the Constitution.

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  1. Boston is extremely liberal of pot use judging by the overwhelming passage of non-binding resolutions to persue the legalization of said herb at pretty much every election.

    It’s just the legislature dragging it’s feet on the matter. It’s never a big enough deal to not elect a rep, or a big enough deal to elect a rep. So it largely goes ignored.

  2. It speaks volumes that the PR strategy in the War on Drugs depends upon squelching opposing viewpoints.

  3. Unlike local bureaucrats, congressional censors don’t even pretend to respect the Constitution.

    Don’t be silly. It’s nice that a few robed elitists have deigned to allow some anti-drug-war ads on public transportation, but in a land of McCain/Feingold it’s absurd to suggest that we enjoy Constitutional protections of freedom of speech and the press. In fact, it’s absurd to suggest that any part of the Constitution is still respected.

  4. You wanna win the Drug War? Overgrow the Government!

    Go to http://www.emeryseeds.com, get yourself some really high-grade seeds (I recommend a strong outdoor type that is potent such as Early Pearl or Jack Herer) and grow for seeds. Then take the seeds and spread them far and wide. That is the only strategic advantage we have in this conflict. It will take a helluva lot of pot-chopping cops to undo the assiduous efforts of just one Johnny Potseed.

    Be careful and good luck!

  5. Boston is extremely liberal of pot use

    No, they’re not. Pot use runs rampant, and that’s probably related to both the large number of colleges and universities, and the relatively low average age (somewhere in the low 30’s). But possession of barely enough to pack a bowl is an incarcerable offense. In New York City from what I understand smoking a joint on your stoop will get you a ticket. Police here are generally lenient, but only because the cause du jour is underage drinking. All those 19- and 20- year olds going to keggers then taking the T home is doing a number on our public safety statistics. Or something. I’m assuming that after this flap BoPo will go after kids with bongs in the pursuit of yet another empty public health crusade. Eventually we’ll spread our police force so thin that kids will get shot in broad daylight and the cops will go a year without breaking the case…oh wait, that already happened.

    Boston is a liberal town; the MBTA policy wasn’t so much directed at Change the Climate, but against anybody who had a controversial (read from the left: “potentially offensive”) message. Apparently there is some belief in governance that not offending people is far more important than making sure their kids aren’t getting shot.

  6. Wonderful news.

    I am a Massachusetts resident and I like Change The Climate. They are running a classy ad campaign. (In other words, they aren’t a bunch of hippies with hemp leaf posters at used music stores.) They highlight the financial drain that marijuana prosecution causes in our cash-strapped state. Their slogan is “Is it really worth it?” and hopefully their big professional-looking billboard on the Mass Pike started some serious intra-automobile discussions about that question.

    They also have a nice website with a local emphasis, http://www.changetheclimate.com.

    Their campaign is a breath of fresh air for me. (No pun intended?) But I have a bad feeling that the State House will legalize marijuana, then immediately outlaw all private smoking in the state. But let’s no go there…

  7. I wish Change the Climate would stop using that “Enjoy better sex/smoke pot” ad they’ve got. If they already have, cheers. And cheers to the courts that have been reasonable on this issue.

  8. I wish Change the Climate would stop using that “Enjoy better sex/smoke pot” ad they’ve got. If they already have, cheers. And cheers to the courts that have been reasonable on this issue.

    But it’s so true!

  9. In fact, it’s absurd to suggest that any part of the Constitution is still respected.

    Well they seem to be sticking to that 2 senators per state bit.

  10. Don’t give them any ideas James. Soon they’ll realize that if they up it to 3 Senators per state they could create even more pork.

  11. Now that the MBTA can’t censor ads on public transport, I’m of a mind to start an ad campaign on the T that asks, “Why can’t the MBTA fare collectors collect enough fares to cover the cost of posting MBTA fare collectors at MBTA turnstiles?”

  12. James B,
    Good point. Color me humbled.

  13. Krybo, Sand Diego discovered that it came out ahead by implementing the honor system – the money it loses in fare jumpers is less than the money it spend on fare collectors.

    Of course, people in San Diego are actually NICE, so it might not work in Boston.

  14. ^
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    —- joe’s. best. post. ever.

  15. “Well they seem to be sticking to that 2 senators per state bit.”

    To determine which parts of the Constitution are followed and which parts aren’t, determine which parts concentrate power in any particular individual, and which parts might dilute that power. Hence, there will NEVER be more than 2 Senators per state, since adding Senators dilutes the power of all existing Senators. (Same reason we’ve been stuck at 435 Reps for almost 100 years). Likewise, there will never be a reduction in Senators per state, since that would eliminate half the jobs. Thus, 2 Senators per state, in perpetuity.

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