The word has come down from the Supreme Court that Fred Phelps and his pious pustule posse at Westboro Baptist Church are supported in their right to picket military funerals with obnoxious, hurtful, and factually inaccurate signs (if God hated fags, he would never have made them so fabulous). What some people call hate speech is, from the church’s point of view, an informational picket. For once I agree with the Roberts court. Our right to free speech is our best national idea and critical to our very glory. As a person who is likely to say something at any time that the ruling junta would find objectionable and smackworthy, I want to see it protected.

Interestingly enough, the court specifically upheld these protesters’ speech as protected political speech. I am wondering if the same judicial consideration would be given to a rag-tag passel of funeral spectators in foam suits waving signs that said “MATTRESS SALE CLOSEOUT! LAST DAY!” If not, then there may be other ways of contending with the particular furuncle on the fanny of Freedom that is represented by Fred and his festering friends.

My inclination is to protect all speech, but there are lines to be drawn, and many of them involve what, exactly, is considered speech. Here in Oregon, for instance, nude dancing is defended as free speech, even though you’re really expected to tip.

But at least nude dancers are demonstrably human. The case that I find really deplorable is the other Roberts court decision that allows corporations to spend as much as they want on political campaigns in the guise of it being free speech. But that’s a mighty big G-string and it holds a lot of cash. Free speech is one thing; I don’t think we should lay out the red carpet for expensive speech. If Corporation can somehow be barged in, squeezing between the buildings downtown and locating a spot in the public square he can stand in for a turn at the mike along with everyone else, fine. I personally would like to limit free speech to those entities who, I don’t know, breathe, and fit on a bus.

And although there are laws against misrepresentation in effect, they do not, apparently, apply to political figures, who are free to say any fool thing they want, regardless of its proximity to the truth. And that is why James Inhofe’s face has not yet been duct-taped shut. He recently pronounced that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and should not be regulated as such, even it it’s cooking our planet. The legal problem here is that it is still permissible to not yell “fire” in a flaming theater. So we’ll have to come up with some other solution for Mr. Inhofe (R-Hell). I’m thinking of a counter-demonstration. Like carbon dioxide, water is a naturally occurring substance and thus, according to Mr. Inhofe’s reasoning, not a pollutant. I submit we could hold the good senator under a bunch of it until he quiets down.