Reading List, Pt II -or- Now Bush Is Banning Books

The story so far. Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, can’t get a publisher in the United States to publish her book because her book and her works haven’t been sanctioned by the government. Apparently the Treasury Department, through the Office of Foreign Assets Control has decided to enforce an obscure 1917 law (Trading With the Enemy Act) that prohibits American companies from publishing works by dissident writers in countries under sanction unless they first obtain U.S. government approval, or pay a $1 million fine.

This is a huge uphill battle for the esteemed Solicitor General to argue before the Supreme Court. And no, this issue is not up before the Supreme Court, not yet. But it will be, it will be.

My dear, dear Patricia Shcroeder and the American Booksellers Association is spearheading a class action lawsuit made up of publishers, authors, booksellers and readers demanding this practice cease.

This thing will be before the esteemed solon of nine faster than you can rig a voting machine in Ohio. And the US Treasury Department will lose. I suspect even Scalia won’t be able to defend this one.

But what is shuddering to me, what makes my blood really boil is that the government, in the year 2004 is even considering this.
At the beginning of the last century a book was censored – banned in Boston as they say. It couldn’t be published in Great Britain and booksellers who sold it in America were fined and thrown in jail. The case went before the courts and low and behold the government was told that no, our goverment can’t dictate what can and can’t be read. The book – Ulysses, by James Joyce and the rest is history (see below. And for those of you who can’t scroll down the two inches to the previous post – Ulysses was declared the best work of Fiction in the English language for the previous century.)

Have we learned nothing? Apparently not.