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Bergdahl To Be Charged

Well, knock me over with a feather:

On Wednesday, the Army announced that it was charging Sergeant Bergdahl with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion, raising the possibility that he could be imprisoned again, this time for life.

In announcing the charges against Sergeant Bergdahl, the military reignited the political firestorm that took place last summer after the sergeant was released in a swap for five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

For President Obama, it reopens the contentious political question of whether the United States should have agreed to the exchange. Administration officials have steadfastly maintained that even if Sergeant Berdahl did voluntarily walk off his remote base in Afghanistan, it was the duty of the United States to take all appropriate steps to free him.

The president’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, was harshly criticized when she said last summer that Sergeant Bergdahl had served “with honor and distinction” at the same time that his former platoon members were appearing on television accusing him of deliberately leaving the base, an act that they said put in danger the lives of the American military members who searched for him.

Sergeant Bergdahl is charged with misbehavior before the enemy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison, and with desertion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He could also face a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank and forfeiture of the pay he was owed while in captivity if he is tried and convicted, Army officials said during a news conference in Fort Bragg, N.C.

A few things to unpack here:

First, getting Bergdahl back was justified. We don’t leave men behind and the idea, currently promulgating in liberal circles, that Republicans would rather he have been left to rot, is garbage. The criticism that Obama faced was for the way this went down — releasing five Taliban detainees in exchange for Bergdahl, not informing Congress of the deal, trying to pretend that Bergdahl served with honor and, in the case of one Administration official, branding his accusers as psychopaths.

Second, it’s amazing to watch the pretzels the sufferers of Obama Defense Derangement Syndrome are twisting themselves into. When Bergdahl was first released and the criticisms of his conduct emerged, the Left took the “how dare you!” narrative. When he was returned to active duty, they pilloried Republicans for having had the temerity to have questioned his honor. Republican criticism of the deal was labelled as placing party above country (even though many Democrats agreed that Obama broke the law in brokering the deal). Now that he’s been charged, we’re back to, “we don’t leave a man behind.”

Berdahl is innocent until proven guilty, obviously. But let’s not pretend the Republicans are the only ones who used his release as a political football. And let’s not pretend that this was a great deal. As David Burge noted on Twitter the other day, it’s becoming clear that this Administration couldn’t negotiate a 99-cent deal with a dollar store.

Generation Eggshell

Judith Shulevitz has a great article up at the NYT about how our colleges and universities have gone to absurd lengths to coddle students’ delicate psyches.

KATHERINE BYRON, a senior at Brown University and a member of its Sexual Assault Task Force, considers it her duty to make Brown a safe place for rape victims, free from anything that might prompt memories of trauma.

So when she heard last fall that a student group had organized a debate about campus sexual assault between Jessica Valenti, the founder of feministing.com, and Wendy McElroy, a libertarian, and that Ms. McElroy was likely to criticize the term “rape culture,” Ms. Byron was alarmed. “Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people’s experiences,” she told me. It could be “damaging.”

Ms. Byron and some fellow task force members secured a meeting with administrators. Not long after, Brown’s president, Christina H. Paxson, announced that the university would hold a simultaneous, competing talk to provide “research and facts” about “the role of culture in sexual assault.” Meanwhile, student volunteers put up posters advertising that a “safe space” would be available for anyone who found the debate too upsetting.

The “safe space” was basically a toddler room:

The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.

You really should really the whole thing. It gets into the increasing culture of creating “safe spaces” where students can be sheltered from ideas that might challenge their beliefs or offend them. Only some ideas, of course. If a Muslim student complained that miniskirts made him uncomfortable or a Christian complained that gays “triggered” him, I doubt they would get much sympathy.

As an academic, I want to make one point: most students aren’t like this. Most of the students I deal with are hard-working rational people who don’t really care about political correctness. The problem is that the whiners — the product of increasing helicopter parenting and schools obsessed with promoting “self-esteem” — have the floor. Moreover, the government is aggressively using Title VIII and IX to push schools into compliance with politically correct agendas. And it’s affecting how our schools operate.

I’m old enough to remember a time when college students objected to providing a platform to certain speakers because they were deemed politically unacceptable. Now students worry whether acts of speech or pieces of writing may put them in emotional peril. Two weeks ago, students at Northwestern University marched to protest an article by Laura Kipnis, a professor in the university’s School of Communication. Professor Kipnis had criticized — O.K., ridiculed — what she called the sexual paranoia pervading campus life

Last fall, the president of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, apologized for causing students and faculty to be “hurt” when she failed to object to a racial epithet uttered by a fellow panel member at an alumnae event in New York. The offender was the free-speech advocate Wendy Kaminer, who had been arguing against the use of the euphemism “the n-word” when teaching American history or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” In the uproar that followed, the Student Government Association wrote a letter declaring that “if Smith is unsafe for one student, it is unsafe for all students.”

“It’s amazing to me that they can’t distinguish between racist speech and speech about racist speech, between racism and discussions of racism,” Ms. Kaminer said in an email.

Professors are guiding their course work away from anything controversial as well. For example, law professors are shying away from discussing rape law, lest they trigger someone. Entire hordes of administrators are hired to make sure everyone is being sensitive and caring (and then student wonder why college costs so much).

So how can we stop this rising Cult of the Victim? Pushback on the campuses themselves is a big part. But another big help would be for the federal government to affirm its supposed commitment to free expression. A complaint that a university is “unsafe” can trigger a potentially damaging federal investigation. In the past, the government has respected free speech but that commitment has weakened in recent years as universities and the government embrace the Left-wing notion that some speech isn’t really speech, but hostile action.

The recent SAE incident was a perfect opportunity for this. The Department of Education could have made it clear that, as students at a public university, the students had free speech rights. But they let that opportunity pass by. And I don’t see this Administration ever standing up the campus politeness police.

The War on Food Continues

Whenever the governments give you money, it comes with government control. To wit:

FROM urban ghettos to declining inner-ring suburbs to destitute rural areas, Americans with little money live in “food deserts” where it is hard to find fresh fruits and vegetables

Stop right there. We’re one sentence in and we’ve already got a problem. Food deserts are a myth. They’ve long been known to be a myth. The writers try to revive this myth with two bizarre measures. One is the number of grocery stores per zip code, which basically means nothing. The population per zip code varies wildly in the United States. My zip code has 40,000 people in it. My uncle’s, living a major city, has 9000. The population of New York City’s zip codes vary by tens of thousands, which is to say nothing of how business zoning varies. This smells like a metric picked for the conclusion. You can contrast it against the study in the link above, which actually looked at 8000 poor children to see how many grocery stores they had in their neighborhoods.

The second number is the amount of shelf space devoted to junk food vs. fresh food. But junk food has more shelf space because 1) they’re including convenience stores, which are supposed to be for a quick grab of something, not grocery shopping; 2) junk food keeps in a way that fresh food doesn’t; and 3) there are four million varieties of soda and chips; most stores carry maybe one or two brands of apples. Moreover, location is important: fresh food shelf space tends to be the first thing you encounter in a store.

Justified by these distortions, they then go on to argue that the food stamp program should be used as a cudgel to force poor people to eat good food:

Food stamps can’t be used to buy cigarettes or alcohol — why not simply add junk food to that ban? In 2011, the Agriculture Department turned down a proposal to restrict the use of food stamps in New York City to buy sugary drinks. Officials said the proposal was too complicated for retailers. But in the background was fierce resistance to the proposal from the beverage industry and its friends in the grocery industry.

The department should give financial incentives to food stamp users to buy healthy food, and should also reconsider its hesitation about restricting the use of food stamps to buy junk food.

They also recommend coercing the stores:

To participate in SNAP, stores must meet certain federal standards. Under the current standards, a store can qualify by stocking a small number of offerings of bread, canned vegetables, meat, milk and cheese, even if they are hidden away in a dusty corner.

The Agriculture Department should simply require that stores that accept food stamps use more of their shelf space — say, a minimum of 20 feet — for healthy foods. And it should set a limit on the use of shelf space for displaying junk food, perhaps with a simple rule of no more space for junk than for fruits and vegetables. This plan would put nutritious food within sight and reach.

They point to some studies that claim this would increase consumption of health foods. Given the junk stats they use on food deserts and their failure to link the aforementioned studies, I will assume that they have misinterpreted these studies. I also say that because the one study they do link to, they misquote. They claim that people consumed more healthy food after WIC implemented a similar requirement for participation. But that study only looks at store inventory, not consumption. It comes to the unsurprising conclusion that when you force stores to stock more healthy food, they stock more healthy food. If you are a behaviorist Nanny Stater who thinks people are empty vessels whose dining habits are controlled by the amount of shelf space devoted to fresh food, the difference between those concept might evade you.

Keep in mind also: there’s a history here. LA tried to ban new fast food stores from low income areas. Obesity actually increased after this. So people in poor areas were denied jobs working in fast food joints to no discernible benefit. Now these clowns want to hit convenience stores and bodegas — often stores run by working poor and operating on the margin — to stock food that no one is going to eat.

And we wonder why poverty remains entrenched.

I always keep in mind what Ta-Nehisi Coates had to say about this (the Atlantic is timing out on me; I’ll update with a link when I can find it). If you’re poor and especially if you are working poor, junk food is one of the few vices you can afford. It’s one of the few that won’t wreck your life in the process (at least not right away). For a couple of well-off liberals to swan in and try to take that away with an ill-advised and ill-informed effort at “public health” is … well … you know the Left talks about privilege? That’s what this is.

And it’s a picnic compared to what’s coming when our government will be giving you “free” healthcare.

(H/T: Thaddeus Russell)

Tunisia Attack

Here we go again:

At least 17 people — most of them tourists — were killed in an attack Wednesday at the Bardo museum in Tunisia’s capital, Tunisian Prime Minister Habid Essid said.

Two attackers were also killed, while three attackers are at large, according to Essid.

Tunisia hasn’t been as chaotic as Libya but ISIS has been getting a toehold there. I would be surprised if there wasn’t a connection.

That Thing That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen

For years, the Left Wing has been agitating for hikes in the minimum wage. When conservative and libertarian critics have pointed out that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment, they respond that “studies” prove this not to be the case (said studies usually being deeply flawed and having little connection to reality). As I’ve said before: you’re going to have to go a long way to convince me that the law of supply and demand is magically suspended when it comes to wages.

Last year, Seattle raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour. How’s that working out?

Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law goes into effect on April 1, 2015. As that date approaches, restaurants across the city are making the financial decision to close shop. The Washington Policy Center writes that “closings have occurred across the city, from Grub in the upscale Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, to Little Uncle in gritty Pioneer Square, to the Boat Street Cafe on Western Avenue near the waterfront.”

Of course, restaurants close for a variety of reasons. But, according to Seattle Magazine, the “impending minimum wage hike to $15 per hour” is playing a “major factor.” That’s not surprising, considering “about 36% of restaurant earnings go to paying labor costs.” Seattle Magazine,

According to the Washington Restaurant Association, restaurants currently spend 36% of their income on labor. This hike could send that as high as 47%. Very few businesses operate with that massive a profit margin. They either have to fire employees or raise prices to compensate.

Restaurant owners, expecting to operate on thinner margins, have tried to adapt in several ways including “higher menu prices, cheaper, lower-quality ingredients, reduced opening times, and cutting work hours and firing workers,” according to The Seattle Times and Seattle Eater magazine. As the Washington Policy Center points out, when these strategies are not enough, businesses close, “workers lose their jobs and the neighborhood loses a prized amenity.”

Right now, this “grand experiment” is producing panic. We’ll see how things look in a year. Keep in mind that increased prices will move many of the poor out of the city completely, which may dim the impact of this on paper. But even with that cushion, this is looking very bad.

Told ya so.

There Should Always Be Freedom in OU

Over the weekend, you may have seen the video of the SAE fraternity at the University Oklahoma singing a racist song about how there would never be black SAE. Well, they were right about that. There never will be a black SAE. This is because the University responded to the video by dissolving the chapter of the frat and expelling two of the students.

The former decision is right and proper, I think. However, I’m having serious problems with the latter. And so are a lot of people:

The University of Oklahoma’s decision to expel two fraternity members who led a racist chant on a bus provoked criticism Wednesday from several legal experts who said that the students’ words, however odious, were protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.

“The courts are very clear that hateful, racist speech is protected by the First Amendment,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine.

Official punishment for speech could be legal if the students’ chant constituted a direct threat, leading a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety, or if it seemed likely to provoke an immediate violent response, according to Mr. Chemerinsky and several other legal scholars, liberal and conservative alike.

But in this case, these experts said, there is no evidence of any direct threat or provocation, and as a publicly financed institution, the university is subject to constitutional boundaries.

I’ve seen similar commentary all over the blogosphere. First Amendment badass Mark Randazza:

I’m not going to get into a discussion of whether I approve of it or not. (I don’t, but that’s all I’ll say about it). You have the right to be racist. I want that freedom. But, somewhere along the way, we decided that eliminating bad thoughts is more important than freedom.

Like it or not, these kids were expressing a political and social opinion. I do not care if you agree with it or not. They have a First Amendment right to freedom of association – that means they can be in a private club that says “no niggers allowed.” I can’t say that I would want to belong to such a club, but the KKK and the American Nazi Party not only have a right to exist, but serve a valuable function — even if that function is only to serve as a negative example.

Further, they have a right to express themselves — even with views that you might find abhorrent. That’s what freedom is.

Several scholars have argued that the song constitute an action and “threat”. I’ll let Scott Greenfield take that one, referencing the famous Skokie cases where the ACLU defended the free speech rights of Nazis:

These SAE boys don’t deserve the protection of the First Amendment, any more than the neo-Nazis in Skokie did. But we don’t do it for them. We do it for us. We do it because speech is either protected for all or protected for none.

There are no wiggly lines that allow us to find some sneaky back-door around the protections of the First Amendment. There is no combination of words expressing our feelings about the relative worth of rights, the relative horror of flagrantly racist speech, the unworthiness of expression, that allows us to shed the protection of the First Amendment when we feel so strongly that it should not be provided. This is precisely when the protections of the Constitution must kick in, must apply, must be upheld in the face of our strongest feelings that we don’t want it to.

You can read more from Eugene Volokh and Doug Mataconis, who get into the Constitutional issues. As a public university, the University of Oklahoma is bound to respect the free speech rights of their students. And the attempt to end-around the First Amendment by claiming a racist song constitutes an “action” is offensive. Greenwald had this to say, albeit in a different context:

We’ve said it a million times: free speech isn’t just for speech we like. It’s for speech we hate. It’s for speech that offends us. It’s for speech that shocks the senses. But more than that: I want the bigots of the world1 to feel like they can say what they want. Which do you think is better? A society in which racists go underground? Or a society in which the ugliness be out and open for everyone to see? When I was a kid, some anti-semitic bigots burned a cross on the lawn of my synagogue. That was much scarier and more dangerous than a bunch of KKK jerks marching along the highway.

It’s become common to refer to incidents like this as “teachable moments”. Maybe. But if it is, the lesson being taught is the wrong one. The lesson is that we will punish speech we don’t like.

The other day, the ACLU took another unpopular stand: defending the free speech rights of the Washington Redskins. In doing so, they quoted the great sage Jeffrey Lebowski: “you’re not wrong; you’re just an asshole”:

The ACLU has a history of defending the speech rights of groups we disagree with, because the First Amendment doesn’t protect only popular ideas. The Washington team’s choice of name is unfortunate. They should be – and are being – pressured to change it. But it isn’t government’s role to pick and choose which viewpoints are acceptable and which are not.

Readmit the students, OU. Make this a teachable moment. And the lesson to teach is that free speech applies to everyone, including assholes.


1. Putting aside whether these students are actual bigots or are just drunken idiots singing a dumbass song.

Update: Jamelle Bouie

As far as the University of Oklahoma is concerned, I should say I’m not thrilled with the punishment. Disbanding the fraternity might be justified, but expelling students for hate speech is an extreme response that runs afoul of free-speech norms, if not the First Amendment.

Education would be better. The University of Oklahoma is two hours away from Tulsa, which in 1921 was the site of one of the worst anti-black race riots in American history. More than a thousand whites stormed the black district of Tulsa and razed it to the ground, killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless and destitute. Black Tulsa never recovered, but memories of the attack live on among descendants of the victims.

Don’t expel the boys. Bring them to Tulsa. Have them see the memorials and talk to the children of survivors. Give them a chance to see what their words actually mean, and whether they want to be the kinds of people who sing about lynching for fun.

Indeed.

Seriously, Greece?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Greeks electing Syriza, a hard left-wing party that promised to walk back austerity. Since then, the Greek situation has gotten far worse. They negotiated some slight concessions, but most of Europe — including the other PIIGS — held fast. And Greek tax collection have collapsed as most Greeks assumed, with Syriza in power, that the days of having to pay their bills were over. It hasn’t even been two months and the coalition is already floundering.

Now they’re having a conniption fit:

Greece will unleash a “wave of millions of economic migrants” and jihadists on Europe unless the eurozone backs down on austerity demands, the country’s defence and foreign ministers have threatened.

The threat comes as Greece struggles to convince the eurozone and International Monetery Fund to continue payments on a £172billion bailout of Greek finances.

Without the funding, Greece will go bust later this month forcing the recession-ravaged and highly indebted country out of the EU’s single currency.

Greece’s border with Turkey is the EU’s frontline against illegal immigration and European measures to stop extremists travelling to and from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) bases in Syria and Iraq.

Panos Kammenos, the Greek defence minister, warned that if the eurozone allowed Greece to go bust it would give EU travel papers to illegal immigrants crossing its borders or to the 10,000 currently held in detention centres.

They’re now trying to walk back those comments so this may just be frustrated rhetoric. But I stand by what I wrote six weeks ago:

Fuck Greece. They’ve gotten tens of billions of dollars in help and their response is to whine and cry because they can no longer live high on the hog on a fraudulent system paid for by other countries. Don’t let them leave the Euro; kick them the hell out. Let inflation and default ruin their economy. Maybe then they’ll figure out that you can’t run a country on bullshit.

You can’t run it on threats either.

(Via Tyler Cown, who has been calling Syriza the Not Very Serious People. We may have to elevate that to the Not Very Sane People.)

Trying Their Hand at Diplomacy

Barack Obama has been negotiating with Iran for a potential deal that would delay their nuclear ambitions while lightening sanctions. We’ve been debating the wisdom of this in the comments for a while. The Republicans oppose any deal without more sanctions and invited Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting the President, an unusual move (although I found Netanyahu’s speech itself to be reasonable and conciliatory).

But this week, things took an interesting turn:

A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.

Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

As a matter of law, the Republicans are right. Any deal will not be a formal treaty ratified by Congress. As a matter of practical politics, however, I find this meaningless. If, two years from now, Iran is violating the terms of the deal, there will no problem in revoking it. However, if the deal is working, I don’t see how a Republican President could possibly revoke it and basically put Iran on a faster path to a nuclear weapon. If we were to unilaterally back out, Iran would be able to resume a nuclear program without international sanctions, which is a worse situation than we have right now. In fact, I would argue that issuing this threat at this time is likely to make the Iranian situation worse. Doug Mataconis:

First of all, as several observers have noted since the letter was released yesterday, the threat that an agreement reached with the Obama Administration might not be honored by the next President, or that it could be undermined by Republicans in Congress through a variety of methods is likely to reinforce the position of Iranian hardliners who are against any agreement at all. This letter reinforces exactly what they already believe, that the United States cannot be trusted and that Iran must move forward with a nuclear program to protect its national interests. Second, the current sanctions regime is working largely only because the other major nations in the world are on board with it because they believe that it will help in the ongoing negotiations in Geneva to persuade the Iranians that there could be a benefit to agreeing to limits on their nuclear program, namely the gradual lifting of sanctions. Even the Russians and Chinese have signed on to this strategy, for now. If these other nations start to see the U.S. as taking a hard line position that makes diplomacy impossible, though, it’s unlikely that they are going to stick with the program or that they will agree to the kind of tougher sanctions that Republicans, and the Israeli Prime Minister favor. If the international sanctions regime is undermined, then there goes the pressure on Iran to come to the negotiating table. Finally, the simple fact of the matter that these Republicans seem to be ignoring is that Iran is not going to give up its nuclear program the way that nations like Libya and South Africa, to pick two examples that Senator Cotton cited this morning, did simply because history has shown them what happens to regimes who give up their WMD programs, such as Libya and Iraq, and those that do not, such as North Korea. Rather than aiming for an impossible objective, then, it strikes me that the best alternative is to try to get the Iranians to agree to confine their research to peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Senator Cotton and his colleagues just helped to undermine that objective.

I would also add that it endangers the cooperation Iran is giving us in fighting ISIS, which I regard as the greater of two evils at the moment.

Iran’s foreign minister has responded to the letter quite forcefully, indicated the letter is having the effect of encouraging Iranian hardliners. And parts of the Left Wing is accusing the Republicans of sabotaging Obama on foreign policy. I’m inclined to somewhat agree.

Foreign policy is one of the few arenas where the President has primary authority. Congress has some say — funding the President’s initiatives and ratifying treaties and so on. But it is not the job of Congress to act like amateur diplomats. Acting like amateur diplomats is the job of Obama’s bumbling State Department. I said as much when Nancy Pelosi went to Syria to meet with Assad: that was not her damned job. It was not the job of Congressmen to undermine the President’s foreign policy then; it’s not the job of Congressmen to undermine the President’s foreign policy now.

As is their wont, the Left is taking a reasonable point and becoming absurd, accusing the Republicans of “treason” for this. This isn’t treason, no matter what you think of it. I’d reserve that to … say … a sitting Senator negotiating with a hostile foreign power to influence an American election.

It’s one thing for Congress to influence policy through the power of the purse or the power of law. But this sort of direct communication with a foreign government during negotiations is a bridge too far. They need to cut it out. If they want to cancel any deal with Iran, they can try to pass a law over Obama’s veto. Or they can the election in 2016 and abrogate it then. But they need to leave off the theatrics. The situation with Iran is delicate enough without 47 senators barging into it.

Islamists of the World, Unite

You know, it’s so great to have real professionals in the State Department again, running terrorism into the ground, preventing the rise of dangerous Islamist states and … oh:

With thousands of fighters and some parts of northeastern Nigeria under its control, Boko Haram is believed to be the largest jihadi group to pledge fidelity to the Islamic State. But terrorism experts say that the practical significance of the move announced Saturday is as yet unclear.

Some experts say that the pledge, or “bayat,” made by the leader of Boko Haram is a spiritually binding oath, which indicates that the Nigerian Islamist group has agreed to accept the authority of the Islamic State.

It’s easy for Boko Haram to pledge allegiance to something thousands of miles away. This doesn’t necessarily move us closer to a caliphate but it does lay the groundwork for a larger and more global terrorist network that can wreck havoc from Africa to the Middle East. And yet another sign that the world has become more under dangerous under Barack Obama, not less.

No More Bloody Sundays

Today marks the 50th anniversary of “Blood Sunday”, the day when civil rights demonstrators marching from Selma to Montgomery were set upon by a law-enforcement organized mob at the Edmund Pettis Bridge. There’s a lot to say about it, including the lame-brained decision of GOP leaders to not attend. But one thing really jumped out at me looking at all the grandstanding politicians.

There is no way a Selma protest would be allowed today:

Today, it would be impossible to obtain a federal court order permitting a five-day protest march on a 52-mile stretch of a major U.S. highway. Under contemporary legal doctrine, the Selma protests would have ended March 8, 1965.

Starting in the 1970s, however, the federal courts began rolling back this idea. A series of rulings erected what is known as the public forum doctrine, which lets a city, state or the federal government decide whether public property can be used for 1st Amendment activities. It also means that if courts do not designate a place a “traditional public forum,” government may forbid its use as a site of protest altogether.

Under this doctrine, the federal government has completely banned large protests at Mt. Rushmore and the Jefferson Memorial.

In fact, a few years ago, a bunch of people were arrested for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial, a decisions the Courts upheld. I can’t imagine what Jefferson, a staunch advocate of free speech, would have said about it.

Even in traditional public forums, government may strictly regulate the time, place and manner of speech activity. The National Park Service, for example, has created “free speech areas” and limited protests to them. Predictably, the federal courts have sustained this policy.

Likewise, local, state and federal governments have banned dissent near major political events, such as the presidential nominating conventions.

Protesters are relegated to “designated speech zones,” sometimes blocks or miles from the venue. The federal courts have sustained such regulations as justifiable security measures. The purpose and effect of these regulations, however, is to render the protesters invisible.

Krotosyznski goes on to note the crackdown on the peaceful side of the Ferguson protesters, which included firing tear gas at people standing on their own lawns. The courts belatedly decided that this violated the free speech rights of the protesters, but it was long past. Whether the Ferguson protests had merit or not, given the DOJ reports, is kind of beside the point. The point is that kind of heavy-handed response has become routine for protests that do not have official government sanction.

Many of the Tea Party protests got permission for their activities, but sometimes only after delays and only in designated areas. And the idea that the Tea Party need permission to oppose government policy is fundamentally ridiculous.

So, yeah, follow the commemorations of the Selma march today. But remember that every single one of those politicians speaking about Dr. King’s courage would have shut him down in a heartbeat today. Because for worshippers of government power, no matter what their political persuasion, dissenters are a problem, not something to be proud of. They are only something to be proud of decades after the fact.