The case of Milan Kohout

By EDITORIAL  |  February 21, 2008

Kohout, a serious man, was engaged in the serious business of political protest. If the police were unaware of the fact that the United States Constitution sanctions such an exercise of free speech, then the DA’s office should have enlightened not only the arresting officers, but also police brass, and — for good measure — City Hall, which presumably maintains ultimate police oversight. In light of the police overstepping their authority and the failure of the district attorney to do his duty, it should fall to the courts to dismiss the charge against Kohout.

The prosecution of Milan Kohout is — so far — a failure at every level of the justice system. Free speech and the right of political comment and protest are not trivialities. Kohout was symbolically offering to sell nooses, which represent the suicidal behavior of our financial system and the personal pain it has helped to engender among millions of American families.

“Nooses on Sale” was, in addition to being constitutionally protected speech, an incisive and particularly — even painfully — apt comment on the subprime scandal. Kohout deserves applause, or argument, but not prosecution.

Cuba: an opportunity
The resignation of Fidel Castro offers a great opportunity for the Cuban political structure to deal with the enormous number of social and economic problems brought on by nearly 50 years of Castro’s iron-fisted reign. People of good will hope that Cuba moves swiftly to return personal freedom and economic equality to its citizens. This is a particularly appropriate moment for the United States government to begin lifting the onerous embargo that has had two unquestionably negative impacts: allowing Castro to continue to rail against the US as the world’s premier colonialist power, while at the same time visiting hardship on his people as a result of this decades-long political stand-off. To begin normalizing relations, the US should not only relax restrictions on cultural and intellectual exchanges, but also lift the ban on US travel there. This would serve as an excellent means for more US citizens to travel to Cuba and see for themselves what life is really like on the Caribbean island just 90 miles from our shores. A change should come swiftly; we have lived in isolation from our neighbors for too long.

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