The Missoulian newspaper website has disabled comments, depriving western Montana of its most reliable way to experience pure despair. Comments sections are bad. But the Missoulian comments were especially bad, combining the subliterate hatred of YouTube comments with the gravity of current events. And it always seemed to be getting worse. The paper turned off comments on obituaries a few years ago, after one became a public referendum on the character of the deceased, the circumstances of his death, and whether he had it coming. Last week, I am told, commenters on a crime story revealed the identity of a victim of sexual assault. That’s what prompted this editorial from Kathy Best, in which the new editor announces that comments on Facebook and Twitter will continue, but website comments are done indefinitely. I applaud this decision. It’s been a long time coming.
Yesterday, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to uphold the constitutionality of prayer before legislative bodies in Town of Greece v. Galloway. Although complainants Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens argued that the prayers before town council meetings in Greece, NY—led by invariably Christian chaplains —violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, the court’s conservatives found that they served a largely ceremonial purpose. I mean “they” the prayers, not “they” the court’s conservatives—one of whom, Clarence Thomas, also opined that the First Amendment “probably prohibits Congress from establishing a national religion.” That’s not even the marquee quote from this case, though. The big one is from Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion, and it’s the subject of today’s Close Reading. Primary text after the jump.
The Supreme Court ruled on McCutcheon v. FEC this morning, and American campaign finance restrictions got a little bit looser. I know what you’re thinking: finally, money can play some kind of role in electoral politics. In a 5-4 decision, the court overturned the individual aggregate limit on contributions to political parties, so you no longer need content yourself with donating a scant $48,000 to candidates every two years and $74,600 to party committees. Individuals can now give the parties of their choice as much money as they damn well please. As Chief Justice John Roberts put it, “there is no right in our democracy more basic than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last week, completely cut off from television, the internet, talk radio, newspapers, Twitter, coffee shop conversation and the mumblings of homeless people now, you’ve probably heard about Chai Feldblum. No? Obama’s controversial recess appointment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission whose support for gay rights makes her a terrifying mystery to mainstream America? Ring a bell? Anything? That’s weird, because according to Fox News, the Obama Labor Pick’s Support For Gay Rights Worries Conservatives. Props to Ben “Yes, Folds—I Am Telling You an Anecdote That Rests On My Being Friends With Ben Folds” Fowlkes for the link. Just who these conservatives are or how Fox News became aware of the story that is their worry remains unclear, but that sort of vague sourcing is Fox’s modus operandi. It’s also the secret to the network’s genius fusion of editorial and news.