Sunday, February 29, 2004

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control recently declared that American publishers cannot edit works authored in nations under trade embargoes which include Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Cuba. [See Making Light]
Although publishing the articles is legal, editing is a "service" and the treasury department says it is illegal to perform services for embargoed nations. It can be punishable by fines of up to a half-million dollars or jail terms as long as 10 years.
Robert Bovenschulte, president of the publications division of the American Chemical Society, which decided this week decided to challenge the government and risk criminal prosecution by editing articles submitted from the five embargoed nations.

This development on the part of the government seems to me part of the long and gradual swing to the Right. I read this last night, and today, on reconsideration, I felt sure this presents a danger of serious erosion of First Amendment rights to freedom of speech:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abriding the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I never get tired of hearing or reading those words. I write this, being the eldest son of a woman who was detained illegally, along with her sister my aunt, because their father, my grandfather, the attorney Don Jorge Padilla, had defended the rights of the people in Jalisco to choose and practice, and express their faith.

So when I consider that the government is seeking to control, nay, even restrict speech, foreign though it be, I must express in the strongest terms and tone that we must protest this now, loudly and throughout the world, both in cyberspace and on the streets, and in the halls of government, and in our houses, workplaces, marketplaces, coffeehouses, bars, and eateries. (I added in another web log the following: also commend the tactics suggested, e.g., to send works to, to outsource editing to other English-speaking countries, even to just go ahead and edit the works, and take the punishment if it comes. I mean, there are plenty of laws such as the Blue Laws, which include prohibitions against any other act of sex other than sex in the missionary position, such as in the military. But how many people ignore or willfully break such laws?)

I raise my Weekend Edition coffee mug to toast y'all who have raised this matter and who are discussing it now. Happy Leap Day!


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