March 3, 2014

"After all, where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions..."

"... so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America? Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular humanist professors of Chicano studies."

From the amicus brief of the Cato Institute and P.J. O'Rourke in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, the Supreme Court case that asks the question "Can a state government criminalize political statements that are less than 100% truthful?" (PDF, via Metafilter.)

The brief is full of funny things (along with actual free-speech doctrinal analysis). I laughed out loud at footnote 15:

[Rep. Steven] Driehaus voted for Obamacare, which the Susan B. Anthony List said was the equivalent of voting for taxpayer-funded abortion. Amici are unsure how true the allegation is given that the healthcare law seems to change daily, but it certainly isn’t as truthy as calling a mandate a tax.
It's laugh-out-loud funny (to me) because it's surprising to see direct mockery of one of the Justices who will decide the case (that is, Chief Justice Roberts, who famously cast the deciding vote in the Obamacare case, upholding the individual mandate, by seeing it as an exercise of Congress's power to tax).

The words "truthy" and "truthiness" are used repeatedly, beginning with:
In modern times, “truthiness” — a “truth” asserted “from the gut” or because it “feels right,” without regard to evidence or logic —is also a key part of political discourse. It is difficult to imagine life without it, and our political discourse is weakened by Orwellian laws that try to prohibit it.
A footnote goes to the Wikipedia article, "Truthiness," as last updated February 28, 2014. As looked at right now, it has not yet been edited to refer to the Cato brief.

23 comments:

Charlie Eklund said...

I met P.J. O'Rourke at the American Bookseller Association convention in 1994. We only spoke for a couple of minutes but I managed to come up with what I hoped would be a humorous comment on the topic at hand. Mr. O'Rourke laughed and seemed geuinely amused. To this day, I consider making P.J. O'Rourke, noted satirist, laugh to be my crowning achievement in the field of amusing chit chat.

Dave Schumann said...

Very cute, but that's not actually the question before the Court. Can there be any doubt what the outcome would be in that case?

Instead, the actual meat of the argument -- the part that Mr. O'Rourke presumably didn't write -- deals with the real question in the case, which is standing. The complaint under this asinine law against SBAL was dropped, so there was no actual harm to SBAL. So this is a pre-emptive suit, and typically to file such a suit you'd have to argue that you would be harmed by the law *as correctly applied* -- but with this particular law, that would require you to attest in court that you intended to lie. (Otherwise the law couldn't harm you, *correctly applied*).

That's how this case made it up this far -- I'd like to think that the Court's rulings as to suppression of political speech are recent and clear enough that the lower courts would have gotten the point if there were actual harm.

Patrick said...

Mr. Eklund, that is a very high standard indeed. well done.

Unknown said...

O'Rourke is a prize, his only competition comes from non-USA Mark Steyn.
The big difference, now, being P.J an amicus while Mark is not only litigator but,cross complaint filer.
http://www.steynonline.com/section/71/defend-free-speech

Chuck said...

P.J. O'Rourke will go down in history as the guy who made the most important statement in American politics in the 21st century: "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it's free."

Patrick said...

"American Agricultural Policy: How to Tell Your Ass from this Particular Hole in the Ground."

And when he describes Bianca Jaeger the morning after the defeat of Daniel Ortega. Paraphrasing: During the campaign, she was ubiquitous. She looked cute, chic, smart. this morning, sheet looked-her age. Trapped in the lonely hell of the formerly cute.

Hard to beat PJ.

Richard Dolan said...

Nice brief, and even nicer that the brief's style provides a funny demonstration of its central point that satire is entitled to constitutional protection for the betterment of the political (and legal) process. But not something to be imitated in the ordinary case or by a less talented writer.

Richard Dolan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oso Negro said...

The amicus brief certainly had the Democrats to a T.

Oso Negro said...

And now that I have read the entire brief, it appears to me that such a brief might benefit Mark Steyn in his troubles with the Global Warming kingpin.

AJ Lynch said...

O'Rourke called the Koreans the Irish of Asia because they like to drink, gamble and fight.

furious_a said...

O'Rourke on Gorbachev ("Ole Splotch-top"): Gorbachev was a visionary like Hirohito was a visionary after Nagaski.

SOJO said...

One of my favs of his:

Microeconomics is about money you don't have and

Macroeconomics is about money the government is out of.

Humperdink said...

O'Rourke's book Enemies List is the funniest book I have ever laid eyes on. A classic.

eric said...

At this point, the Supreme Court deserves all the mockery it gets.

David said...

"Can a state government criminalize political statements that are less than 100% truthful?"

As with the Russians in Crimea, if they can, they will.

Fen said...

"political statements that are less than 100% truthful?"

Better question: can any political statement be 100% truthful?

Bruce Hayden said...

I thought it excellent, and a poster above is correct - most attorneys should not try this sort of humor on the High Court.

I chaired a committee, and still participate on it, that every year or two submits an Amicus brief to the Supreme Court, or, on occasion, to lower courts. A month or two ago, we submitted one (as is typical) involving software patents. The basic problem there is that we have precedent written by Justices born in the 19th Century controlling technology in the 21st Century. That lends itself to humor, or at least some thought so. But, in the end, all attempts at humor were ruthlessly excises. Well, mostly.

The big goal of an amicus brief is to get the Justices to read the brief. This is not trial, or even many appeals courts, where the judges read everything, as their duty. Rather, they have clerks for this, wading through the dozens of briefs that are sometimes submitted in a case, and then the clerks summarize and condense the amici information for the Justices. You want to break through that barrier, and get the Justices to read your brief, and it isn't easy, esp. when there are a number of groups saying something similar, but subtly different.

I think that amici here will succeed in their efforts to get their brief read. It is funny, at a level that only a professional like O'Rourke could do. It is the sort of thing that is likely to make the rounds just to cheer everyone up who, thanks to global warming, is stuck in a snowstorm in DC this winter. And, it uses that humor to make its point.

Well done.

Fen said...

Hey Bruce - sidebar.

As a mental exercise, a few of my friends were trying to locate on what grounds the courts would dismiss "being imprisoned is against my religion" as a frivolous claim. The few lawyers we talked with don't seem to know (you'd think the answer would be obvious to them, something learned in their 1st year at law school).

And ideas? Best we can find so far is language that state interest trumps religious freedom in such an instance. But we can't find any case law on it.

tim maguire said...

Chuck, there are so many great PJ quotes, we could all have a different best and all be right. "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

My favorite, in answer to a forgotten question, "I don;t know. I'm not a liberal so I'm not an expert at stuff I know nothing about."

Anyway, the dig at Roberts is funny, deserved, and a little courageous, but calling the mandate a tax does not fit the definition of "truthy" quoted. Calling the mandate a tax was a cynical ploy by a cowardly supreme court justice who should have resigned if he couldn't take the Democratic heat.

who-knew said...

My favorite was the footnote to "...ponder, as Grover Cleveland was forced to 'Ma, Ma, where's my pa?'(4)

(4) Answer: Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha."

geokstr said...

Unknown said...
O'Rourke is a prize, his only competition comes from non-USA Mark Steyn.


Don't leave out one of the funniest writers in America today - Dave Barry. While his writings are more non-political than not, when he does attack politics, he seems to reveal a libertarian streak.

He even ran for President in 2000. Here's a couple good quotes from that campaign:
FOREIGN POLICY

I am sick and tired of watching the United States get pushed around by dirtbag nations such as Iraq. If I were president, and Saddam Hussein gave me any trouble, I would unleash the ultimate weapon on him. That's right: I would have a bomber fly right over downtown Baghdad, open the bomb doors, and drop: lawyers. If that didn't paralyze Iraq, I would drop more lawyers; and if THAT didn't work, I would put parachutes on the lawyers."


And his catchy campaign slogan:
"It's Time We Demanded Less"

Every now and then, America produces a great leader -- a person of vision, courage, and integrity. Until that leader shows up, why not elect Dave Barry as our president?

Bill said...

"A footnote goes to the Wikipedia article, "Truthiness," as last updated February 28, 2014. As looked at right now, ..."
If you're concerned that a Wikipedia page will change out from under your citation, you can go into the page history and get a URL to a specific version of it. For instance, here's the page as it was on Feb 28, which is prefaced
"This is an old revision of this page, as edited ... at 22:22, 16 February 2014. It may differ significantly from the current revision."
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Truthiness&oldid=595837554