10.15.15 MUSLIMS & TPP
Buried under all the hoo-hah about the debates and Lamar Odom was a significant court ruling regarding basic freedom that came out of a federal appeals court Tuesday in Philadelphia. The decision in the case Hassan v. City of New York over-ruled the dismissal of a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department over its surveillance program targeting Muslims.
The allegations made by the plaintiffs are absolutely chilling: the systematic gathering and cataloging of information about Muslims, Muslim organizations and mosques; the undercover infiltration of civic organizations, schools businesses, and religious groups; and video surveillance of mosques and businesses. All of this information was compiled in massive databases and analyzed and countless secret reports were generated. And this program didn’t target dangerous or suspect individuals or groups. It just targeted Muslims.
I’ve read press reports that no arrests ever resulted from all this skulking around. None.
The trial court judge, a hack politico appointed by W in 2002, ruled, rather remarkably, that (a) the plaintiffs (all people and groups that had been spied on) couldn’t show any “cognizable injury-in-fact” and (b) the claim of religious discrimination failed because “[t]he more likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate budding terrorist conspiracies.” Oh really?
The appeals court made mincemeat of both the trial judge’s and the City’s absurd arguments. In an incredible, epic, and scholarly almost 60-page decision (that will probably be included in law school courses on Consitutional Law), the Court ruled that the allegations, if proven, make out clear violations of the plaintiffs’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause as well as the First Amendment. The decision closed with:
What occurs here in one guise is not new. We have been down similar roads before. Jewish-Americans during the Red Scare, African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, and Japanese-Americans during World War II are examples that readily spring to mind. We are left to wonder why we cannot see with foresight what we see so clearly with hindsight—that “loyalty is a matter of the heart and mind, not race, creed, or color.”
Moving on. You might recall earlier columns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade deal, years in the making, that’s been negotiated in secret by government officials in “industry representatives.” How Congress gave Obama “fast track authority”, which means Congress can only give the entire treaty a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, with no ability to reject individual parts. Well, apparently, the negotiation is over and the treaty is done. But we still haven’t seen it, because… well, just because. We’re supposed to be allowed to see it soon, but meantime, the good folk at Wikileaks have released something that is supposed to be the intellectual property part of the deal. And it’s awful.
The TTP requires all countries to adopt the absurdly long copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years. That at a time when most scholars and many in government are contemplating shorter terms, because 100+ years for a copyright really can’t be justified with any rational argument, and it has frozen the public domain in place for the at least the last 40 years, and will continue to freeze it for the foreseeable future. And speaking of the public domain, that’s relegated to the plaudit section of the treaty, something governments should “consider,” but no mandatory measures. The same goes for fair use. Instead, the treaty calls for more copyright enforcement, stricter digital rights management (technological ways to keep people from accessing or copying things), and higher penalties for infringement. Even worse, the treaty mandates that Internet Service Providers, like your cable company, have the obligation to enforce copyright laws, that is, to bust their own customers for infringing activity.
It’s pretty sickening, and it’s only a small part of the much larger treaty, that reportedly includes huge gimmies to Big Pharma, including things like special new patent protections for “biologics” and forcing third world countries to fully enforce pharmacological patents. In other words, to keep medical drugs so expensive that people in many countries won’t be able to afford them. And so they die.
Just last week, Hillary, feeling the Bern, came out against TPP, which means the two Democratic front-runners both oppose the treaty. The Republicans are either too busy with Jeebus or fake freedoms to pay much attention, and besides, they’ve all been bought off by the treaties proponents. I’m thinking it will take a SOPA-like public uprising to kill this bastard thing. Let’s do it.
Paul C. Rapp is a local IP attorney who hates long walks on the beach and candlelit dinners and pina coladas. He prefers bourbon and Kinky Friedman.