Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reading: Molly Ivins and the Bill of Wrongs

Excerpted from Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch's Assault on America's Fundamental Rights, the last book by reporter, satirist, and First Amendment Valkyrie Molly Ivins before her death last year:

As Jeff Rank recalled, the band on the platform played "America the Beautiful" as the Ranks were frog-marched to the police van that would take them to the Charleston municipal jail.

President Bush started speaking at exactly 12:57. By the time he got the constitutional rights properly enshrined in the First Amendment - "our love of freedom, the freedom for people to speak their minds... . Free thought, free expression, that's what we believe" - Jeff and Nicole Rank already had their handcuffs removed and were sitting in separate cells in Charleston's police department building. "It was chickenshit," said Nitro, West Virginia, lawyer Harvey Peyton. "I mean these young kids, these twenty-somethings, just told the officers, 'Their tickets are revoked, get them off the capitol grounds.' "

It was one of several varieties of chickenshit expressly prohibited by the First Amendment, even if it took the Congress and the courts a while to make that prohibition clear. […]

Law professor Leonard Levy - who seems to do little else but think and write about the Constitution - says that seditious speech is an alien concept to American democracy. It only exists "where people are subjects rather than sovereigns and their criticism implies contempt of their master."

It's a bold, simple concept, spelled out in the First Amendment and shaped by two centuries of criminal and civil jurisprudence: George III was a master. George W. is a servant.

A link to the full excerpt is going on the Readings list in the sidebar.

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