Over Easy Thursday: Free Speech
Good morning firepups! There’s a good chance that I am still asleep as you read this, due to the magic of the fdl pre-scheduling a myFDL diary. I am still being a night owl, natural tendency aggravated by the continuing blockage of one ear or another, making me deaf to an alarm clock, even one placed inches from my pillow. Just not hearing the ring. Anyway, here is my substitute post while Ruth Calvo, your usual Thursday host, deals with death in the family, and all its attendant complications.
Free speech is an issue I care a lot about, along with most of us here, I’m sure. We have a local case that appears on its way to court. The city has banned two former city employees from coming to council meetings at all or even from entering on city property. The justification made to the local public radio reporter is that these guys need to be banned for the safety of city employees and other members of the public. They have been warned they will be charged with criminal trespass if they show up at a council meeting.
When I first heard this, my reaction was, natch, WTF? The only “danger” cited appears to be supposedly excessive emails, letters, and calls on issues about city spending. Well, that sounds pretty annoying, but dangerous? Worthy of depriving someone of their first amendment right to petition their government, right to peaceable assembly? Hmmm. Is there more to this story? Without so much as asking a judge to issue an order? And with no time limit on the ban?
TPR implied that the Texas Civil Liberties Project was taking the case; the Current (alternative weekly) says TCLP declined to represent these guys. They seem to be the poster children for obnoxious, annoying, pain-in-the-butt citizens whose rights must be protected, no matter how annoying and obnoxious they are. This is one more way cities seem to be figuring they can unilaterally decide that your free speech isn’t allowed. Did the Occupy movement push cities down the repression highway? What the heck are they thinking?
Next, we have the Northside Independent School District here with a pilot project to track all students with a badge with an RFID chip. The girl who sued on religious grounds (the chip is the Biblical “mark of the beast.” Hoo boy) lost because the school was willing to let her wear a chip-less badge, an accommodation the Court said was sufficient. Today’s ACLU newsletter says there are bills in the new legislative session to prohibit this sort of tracking of students. The ACLU supports it and urges recipients of the newsletter to write our legislators. If the so-called conservatives in the Texas lege have any consistency on their love of “liberty,” it’ll pass. But, then consistency is not one of their virtues, is it?
There are plenty of such issues all over the country. While they might seem smaller than the pre-trial detention of Bradley Manning, for instance, or the expanding use of drones by executive whim, each one is important to preserving our rights and freedoms. And dare I say it, they are more important in the long run than any part of the Second Amendment.
We know KrisAinTX is working to keep his local school board honest. Anybody else have local outrages to free speech or other constitutional protections they’re following?
In other news, I took down my copy of Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland yesterday and started reading it. I bought it awhile ago, but decided reading it would be too depressing. It seems marginally less so now that the election is at least over. Already I must say it’s interesting seeing how events I personally lived through are seen by someone who wasn’t yet born at the time.
To balance that all-politics sensation, I picked up a volume of New European Poets tonight; all poets who began publishing after 1970. Again, a generation with a viewpoint different from mine. I need something fresh.
So, what are you reading to escape from the harsh reality we usually discuss here?
That should keep y’all busy while I work on waking up enough to play host.
Photo by jeffreyw released under a Creative Commons license.