Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy the Constitution! (updated)

First off, I'd like to take a moment of silence for the Occupy Wall Street movement. They've gone disco.

Meanwhile, though, let’s consider a fascinating legal issue that has come up with the Occupy movement.

See, the problem with the 99% bringing the problem of economic disparity to light, is that, by the nature of the election process, in order to be a politician, you are all but required to be a member of the 1%.

This is the reason that it’s so difficult to get a tax increase for the rich through Congress: they are the rich!

This also means that many of them are predisposed to oppose discussion of income disparity or the economic realities of life in America today. Nobody likes talking about their own sins, when it’s easier to point at other people and scream “Heretic!” So, for example, Mayor Bloomberg of New York (net worth: $18.1 billion) isn’t particularly interested in stopping police brutality against protestors. (If anything, he’s enabling it.)

In Texas, they’ve decided that there is only a limited amount of free speech available in Austin at any one time.

Now, consider that for a minute. If one protest group starts yelling, and leaves after 2 hours and 55 minutes, and another group, unrelated to them and with no knowledge of the previous group, spontaneously showed up in the same neighborhood, they would not be allowed to speak without breaking the law.

It seems to me that this case would be a slam-dunk for any civil rights lawyer. Just take a video camera and show someone showing up after the time limit has expired and not being allowed to speak. Admittedly, the Texas Supreme Court would uphold the police actions, because that’s how Texas works; but it would continue up through the US Supreme Court, and nobody claiming to be a Constitutional scholar could let this pass.

(In a fascinating twist, the Trophy Wife, usually far more optimistic than I've ever been, is feeling more cynical than I do on the subject, and thinks that the Roberts Supreme Court – combined average net worth $47,272,584 – might not be interested in supporting free speech in this case.)

Funny how this issue never came up for the Tea Party protests...

(Update, 12/3/11)
And in a story broken yesterday by my second least-favorite news source, the Huffington Post (and wildly underreported by other news sources as I write this), the UN has noticed many of the same things:
The United Nations envoy for freedom of expression is drafting an official communication to the U.S. government demanding to know why federal officials are not protecting the rights of Occupy demonstrators whose protests are being disbanded -- sometimes violently -- by local authorities.

Frank La Rue, who serves as the U.N. "special rapporteur" for the protection of free expression, told HuffPost in an interview that the crackdowns against Occupy protesters appear to be violating their human and constitutional rights.

"I believe in city ordinances and I believe in maintaining urban order," he said Thursday. "But on the other hand I also believe that the state -- in this case the federal state -- has an obligation to protect and promote human rights."
In moments of crisis, governments often default to a forceful response instead of a dialogue, he said -- but that's a mistake.

"Citizens have the right to dissent with the authorities, and there's no need to use public force to silence that dissension," he said.
Personally, I didn't know that "Frank" was a popular Guatemalan name, but considering Guatemala during the 80s and 90s (and for that matter, the previous decades, when they helped develop the term "banana republic"), they know something about the suppression of human rights.

Of course, who approves of the way the American police are dealing with protesters? Mostly tyrants with their own economic protesters, like Mubarak.

Proud of yourself yet, Washington?

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