May 31st, 2006

Speaking Out and Speaking In

In case you were wondering, Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on the rights of public employees who are "whistle-blowers" is extraordinarily similar to the argument Immanuel Kant makes in "What Is Enlightenment?":
Justice Kennedy's opinion drew a formal distinction between two kinds of speech by public employees: statements they make "pursuant to their official duties" and those made as citizens contributing to "the civic discourse." The first category was not protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech, Justice Kennedy said, while the second retained "the prospect of constitutional protection."

The dissenting justices warned that this distinction would often be unclear in practice and difficult for lower courts to apply.

"The notion that there is a categorical difference between speaking as a citizen and speaking in the course of one's employment is quite wrong," Justice John Paul Stevens said in a dissenting opinion.
It should be noted that Kant was living in the absolutist state of Prussia when he wrote his essay, making a bit of butt-kissing prudent. I like to think that, were he to visit us from the beyond, he would take the recently deceased Lloyd Bentsen's most famous statement as a model. "I knew Frederick the Great, Mr. President, and you're no Frederick the Great."

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Back Where I Belong

I reached a conclusion over the past week. Despite years of being frustrated with Bad Subjects, not to mention the far greater frustration I caused everybody else involved with the project, it remains the place where I feel most at home as a writer. As an experiment today, I finished a review of the new Matmos album that I'd been working on for the past two weeks and decided to see whether I could finally manage to post something to the website.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I have a technology curse. I'm no expert on computers, but understand a great deal more than people who have no trouble at all doing things I can't. Since moving to Tucson, this curse has manifested itself first and foremost in my dealings with Bad Subjects. I've wasted hundreds of hours of labor on tasks, only to watch them disappear into the void in spite of my care in backing them up. And even simple things, like getting the website to load and then staying logged in have proven close to impossible.

Today, though, if only for the briefest of interludes, my luck changed. I was able to publish the review, graphics and all, and then modify the home page to feature a link to it. I'm happy with the way everything looks and even happier with the way the writing turned out. Most importantly, I feel like the massive stone that was holding my self-confidence prisoner since shortly after moving to Tucson has been dislodged. Clearly, something in me still needs Bad Subjects to be a part of my life. I'm amazed at the depth of my transformation in the past twelve hours. Suddenly, I'm free again.