Steal this paper, go to jail

Bites supports law enforcement: It’s so rare that Bites feels that a piece of legislation being pushed through the political grinder benefits Bites especially, but here’s an exception. On May 4, the California state Assembly unanimously passed Assembly Bill 2612, which makes it a crime to take more than 25 “copies of a free or complimentary newspaper” with the intent of either keeping others from reading them, squelching competition or selling the papers to recyclers or anyone else. The bill was sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA), which is no surprise, but there is some little irony in the fact that the bill was authored by Assembly Republican Leader George Plescia. Don’t get Bites wrong; it’s not that Republicans don’t value free speech, but this one stands against gay marriage; supports building a border fence between California and Mexico; and supports not just the troops, but the very mission of the war with Iraq. Traditionally, his side doesn’t benefit so much from the free distribution of alternative weeklies.

The Assembly must feel that readers do, or maybe it just sympathizes with advertisers who pay to have their ads so freely distributed.

Though it seems obvious to Bites that lifting a stack of papers out of a bin and selling them to recyclers is stealing, CNPA legal counsel Jim Ewert said that without A.B. 2612, it’s been hard convincing law enforcement that you can steal something that publishers have decided to give away.

Bites likes to think there’s just no way to put a price on the free and easy exchange of ideas.

Get ’em while they’re young: The Assembly Committee on Higher Education recently took another stand on behalf of free speech. A.B. 2581 was designed to grant free-speech protections to journalists writing for University of California, California State University or community-college newspapers. Thought they were already covered—being journalists and all? Well, so did other free-speech advocates until a 2005 Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Hosty v. Carter, claimed that administrators could review and control student content before it went to press. So much for muckraking stories about the administration.

The new law, introduced by Speaker Pro Tem Leland Yee of San Francisco, was introduced after a CSU administrator took a look at the Seventh Circuit decision and began circulating memos stating that “CSU campuses may have more latitude than previously believed to censor the content of subsidized student newspapers.” Bites demands a full retraction.

Terror on trial: The Associated Press reports that American travel agencies have dropped efforts “to lure Arabs to Disney World, New York and Las Vegas,” but Bites wonders: What Arab in his right mind would come to the United States given the current state of justice afforded those of Islamic faith in this country?

Consider the farce that was the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. The diagnosed schizophrenic’s connection to the 9/11 terrorists couldn’t have been more tenuous; he should have been consigned to a mental institution. Nevertheless, the would-be martyr pleaded guilty and begged to be executed. Yet, his totally incompetent U.S. prosecutors were unable to secure a death-penalty verdict, despite spending millions on the case. Now Moussaoui has recanted his confession because the United States won’t kill him. Can’t a Muslim catch a break?

What about the sham trials of Lodi Muslims Umer and Hamid Hayat? Let’s assume son Hamid actually attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, even though it’s debatable whether the federal government proved it. How is that any different from the thousands of white militia members training for Armageddon across the country every weekend? Are they next? Bites assumes not. Nor does Bites assume Hamid actually got a fair trial, what with all the witness and jury tampering that took place. And now the feds, after failing to convince a unanimous jury that papa Umer lied to the FBI, are going to spend another couple million to take a second go at it. It could be worse. They could have just packed the Hayats off to Gitmo.