Currently viewing the tag: "Free Speech"

Tim Eyman’s Initiative 517 was certified on January 23rd by the Washington Secretary of State’s office.  I-517  is an initiative to the legislature. If, as likely, the legislature chooses not to act on it, it will be placed on the November 5, 2013 ballot. The legislature has an option to put an alternative on the ballot with it.

The official ballot title and summary for I-517 is:

Ballot Title
Initiative Measure No. 517 concerns initiative and referendum measures.

This measure would set penalties for interfering with or retaliating against signature-gatherers and petition-signers; require that all measures receiving sufficient signatures appear on the ballot; and extend time for gathering initiative petition signatures.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would define terms concerning interfering with or retaliating against petition-signers and signature-gatherers, and would make such conduct a criminal misdemeanor and subject to anti-harassment laws. The measure would require that all state and local measures receiving enough signatures be placed on the ballot, limiting pre-election legal challenges. The measure would also extend the time for filing initiatives and gathering signatures from ten to sixteen months before the election when the vote would occur.

View Complete Text PDF

Initiative 517 is not needed and should be rejected by both the Washington State Legislature and the voters.

Initiative 517 – which Tim Eyman calls the “Protect the Initiative Act” is really the “Protect Tim Eyman’s Profit Machine Initiative“.   Tim started initiative efforts in 1995 and by 1999 they had become his primary business.  This is an initiative meant to increase Tim’s business of putting right wing conservative measures on the ballot in Washington State.

I-517 is Tim Eyman’s attempt to increase his initiative business to a year round activity, guarantee more markets for his initiatives by requiring cities and counties to put them on the ballot, and eliminate any opposition to people signing his measures by expanding anti harassment laws to try to unconstitutionally limit free speech rights of others.

As explained on the website opposing Initiative 517:

Initiative 517 has three main provisions:

  • It would double the period of time permitted for signature gathering for an initiative to the people, allowing Tim Eyman and his associates, Jack Fagan, Mike Fagan, Edward Agazarm and Roy Ruffino to make collecting signatures for initiatives to the people a more profitable and lucrative year-round business.
  • It attempts to prevent Washingtonians from exercising their First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly in a “Decline to Sign” campaign by making it a misdemeanor to maintain an “intimidating presence” within “twenty-five feet of any person gathering signatures or any person trying to sign any initiative or referendum petition”.
  • It dubiously requires leaders of cities, counties, and other local jurisdictions that provide for their own initiative process to place any initiative with sufficient voter signatures on the ballot for a public vote at public expense, even if the initiative in question concerns a matter that exceeds the lawful scope of the local initiative power.

Laws already exist to deal with harassment within our state. What Eyman is proposing is to expand those laws so that anyone opposed to his initiatives would be prevented from coming with 25 feet of a petitioner. This is a violation of free speech. Because words like intimidation and harassment can take on many common meanings, the first amendment rights of citizens opposing a measure, such as merely urging people to read a measure  before signing it, could cause them to be subject to arrest.

USlegal.com for instance says the following about harassment, which should give any free speech advocates cause for concern regarding giving petitioners special rights superior to those of other citizens.

“Harassment is governed by state laws, which vary by state, but is generally defined as a course of conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety. Harassment is unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim and results in a hostile environment for the victim. Harassing behavior may include, but is not limited to, epithets, derogatory comments or slurs and lewd propositions, assault, impeding or blocking movement, offensive touching or any physical interference with normal work or movement, and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons. 

Now the problem is that of course anyone who stands say 5 feet away from a petitioner with a sign that says “Read this initiative before you sign it. It is a terrible initiative” or something to that effect would obviously “annoy” a petitioner. The petitioner could consider it a “derogatory poster”. The petitioner could consider it a “hostile environment”. But if the sign holder is not physically assaulting a petitioner or blocking a petitioner from having people sign a petition, why should the sign holder lose his right of free speech. Why should he be harassed and threatened with being arrested. Tolerance and fairness is required on both sides. Free speech for all is guaranteed under the US Constitution, not just those on one side of an issue.

Eyman wants to create a special class of free speech rights for paid petitioners so he can, without public debate, more easily secure a place on the ballot. It is his business and he is asking for special rights for helping his business put more money in his pocket. Next he will be claiming that only his side should be able to speak publicly at public forums regarding the merits of an initiative since anyone speaking against his initiative  is “harassing”him.

As former Secretary of State Sam Reed wrote in his official statement in 2012 on the secretary of state’s website regarding “Filing Initiatives and Referenda in Washington State”

“Do I have the right to urge people not to sign a petition?
Yes, as a matter of freedom of speech. Opponents of an initiative or referendum can certainly express the opinion that it would not be a  good idea for a voter to sign a petition. An opponent, however, does
not have the right to interfere with the petition process. In fact, it is a gross misdemeanor to interfere with somebody else’s right to sign a petition, and there are also laws against assaulting people. You can certainly express your opinion, but you must remember that other people have rights to their opinions as well, including the right to sign petitions you may not like.
This principle works both ways, of course. Neither side of an initiative or referendum campaign has the right to prevent the other from expressing opinions.”   

Here is part of the  language Eyman is proposing to add

(1) A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if the person: …

(e) Interferes with or retaliates against a person collecting signatures or signing any initiative or referendum petition by pushing, shoving, touching, spitting, throwing objects, yelling, screaming, being verbally abusive, blocking or intimidating, or other tumultuous conduct or maintaining an intimidating presence within twenty-five feet of any person gathering signatures or any person trying to sign any initiative or referendum petition. (2) Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor. 

So most of the language would fall under current harassment law but “the maintaining an intimidating presence within twenty-five feet of any person gathering signatures or any person trying to sign an initiative or referendum petition” is so vague and subjective that it can easily be abused by any petitioner who wants to stop anyone opposing them .  This proposed initiative is not needed and is a threat to free speech.  It is frankly unconstitutional .

A Federal Judge in Tacoma has ruled that the unfettered flow of money is equivalent to free speech in elections. The problem is that corporations and wealthy individuals have more money than average citizens and hence can buy more “free speech”.

The ruling throws out a Washington State law that limited individual contributions to campaigns to a maximum of $5000 per contribution in the last three weeks. The intent was to limit the influx of huge amounts of money right before an election that could put out false statements that opponents did not have the ability to respond to effectively.

Why this ruling is absurd is that both sides in an initiative for example had to comply with the same rules. It was not like one side was getting special treatment. Unfortunately now corporations and special interests can dump in huge amounts of money at the last minute without the ability of the opposing side or the media to respond to what can be false or erroneous statements. That is why the law was put in place.

The argument that the ability to spend any amount of money one wants in initiative campaigns is exercising free speech is absurd. Money buys paid speech. The Seattle Times article notes that already some $32.5 million has been spent on 6 initiatives this year.

The lawsuit was brought by Family PAC which opposed Referendum 71 last year. Referendum 71 passed 53% to 47% and expanded rights for domestic partners. It was opposed by conservative groups.

Federal law currently prohibits the spending of corporate money in Federal elections. Many states also prohibit the spending of corporate money in state elections. But this could all change soon as the US Supreme Court is considering overturning the ban on corporate money in elections put in place over 100 years ago by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Two judicial decisions, one in 1990 and the other in 2003, that supported the ban on corporate money are being reviewed and are in danger of being overturned by the current conservative majority of the court. In 1990 the US Supreme Court upheld a state law on banning corporate donations. Justices Kennedy and Scalia dissented on that case.

The second case was a 5 to 4 decision in 2003 which upheld the McCain-Feingold ban on union and corporate broadcast ads the month prior to an election. In that case Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy were opposed. Since then Justice Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Chief Justice John Roberts was appointed. The appointment of Justice Sotomayer for Souter did not result in a vote change since she is likely to vote the same as Souter did.

The case before the Court Initially involved the banning of “Hilliary: the Movie” by the Federal Elections Commission as electioneering under McCain – Feingold. The conservative Justices have succeeded in scheduling a special Court session on Sept 9, 2009 to hear arguments on overturning the corporate ban on money in elections.

The issue is one that pits “free speech” versus the influence of corporate money in elections. In an article in today’s Seattle Times entitled “Corporate election spending up for review” they note that:

With the corporate-spending limits at risk of reversal, advocates of campaign-funding laws are sounding the alarm. Striking down corporate spending limits would be “a radical step” that would change the character of elections, said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21.

“Banks like Citicorp, investment firms like Merrill Lynch and insurance companies like AIG would be free to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of their corporate wealth to directly support the election of federal officeholders who do their legislative bidding and to directly oppose [those] who refused to carry out their wishes,” Wertheimer said.

“This could take us back to the era when people referred to the senator from Standard Oil,” agreed Washington, D.C., lawyer Trevor Potter, who last year advised Republican Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. “If you have hundreds of millions of corporate dollars flowing into these races, it could drown out the speech of ordinary voters

The New York Times article today is entitled “Justices to Revisit ‘Hillary Film, and Corporate Cash in Politics” also has an in depth discussion of the issues involved. The add an additional quote by Fred Wertheimer saying that , “We’re not dealing with campaign finance laws. We’re dealing with the essence of power in America.”

So much for the Republican conservative hypocrisy on saying they oppose activist judges. Seems the conservative contingent on the Supreme Court is ready to overturn 100 years of judicial law.

Two thoughts emerge. One is why should corporations even be considered to be accorded free speech protections under the Constitution? A corporation is not an entity in the US Constitution but people are..

The second is how anyone can consider money spent by corporations as equivalent to free speech. Multimillion dollar expenditures by corporations can easily drown out the free speech rights and voices of average citizens. There is no limit on corporations speaking out and holding press conferences and issuing press releases. The issue is one of whether corporate financial money should give their view and position on candidates an unfair advantage becasue they can buy paid media and lots of it.

Maybe this is all one more reason pushing the county toward public financing of campaigns so that candidates can compete on an equal basis on their ideas, not on the basis of whether they have corporate friends willing to support them.

If you follow the law according to the Bush Patriotic Speech Police or the Bush Anti-sedition League for Thought and Speech Control, then I am guilty. I confess, I did not vote for Bush the Junior. (For the record I also didn’t vote for his Daddy.) And I am not shy about telling anyone and everyone I can, whenever I can.

But I am only a little fish in the sea of sedition. Not so lucky are some women bridge players who had the audacity and lacked the timidity of many who are careful to not utter a word even suggesting that they are among the 50% of voters who also didn’t vote for Junior.

Like the Dixie Chicks before them, again some women spoke their mind. This time it was only some scribbled words on the back of a menu at an awards event. The offending words of heresy, “We did not vote for Bush“.

The whole story is in a NY Times article headlined, “Display of Anti-Bush Sign Has Competitive Bridge World in an Uproar”

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A man arrested in June after he told Vice President Cheney “I think your polices in Iraq are reprehensible” has filed suit in Federal Court saying a Secret Service agent violated his civil rights. It is quite telling that the arrest occurred 10 minutes after the man spoke to Cheney. The agent asked that the man be charged with harassment but the charges were later dropped.

from the New York Times:

In his suit, filed in Federal District Court in Denver, the man, Steven Howards, an environmental consultant who lives in Golden, Colo., says he stepped up to the vice president to speak his mind in a public place and found himself in handcuffs — in violation, the suit says, of the Constitution’s language about free speech and illegal search and seizure

from the Rocky Mountain News :

Attorney David Lane said that on June 16, Steve Howards was walking his 7-year-old son to a piano practice, when he saw Cheney surrounded by a group of people in an outdoor mall area, shaking hands and posing for pictures with several people.

According to the lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in Denver, Howards and his son walked to about two-to-three feet from where Cheney was standing, and said to the vice president, “I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible,” or words to that effect, then walked on.

Ten minutes later, according to Howards’ lawsuit, he and his son were walking back through the same area, when they were approached by Secret Service agent Virgil D. “Gus” Reichle Jr., who asked Howards if he had “assaulted” the vice president. Howards denied doing so, but was nonetheless placed in handcuffs and taken to the Eagle County Jail.

The lawsuit states that the Secret Service agent instructed that Howards should be issued a summons for harassment, but that on July 6 the Eagle County District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges against Howards.

from the Vail Daily on 6/19/2006 – Secret Service Quiet about Man Arrested Near Cheney:

BEAVER CREEK – The U.S.Secret Service is offering no details about the arrest of Steven Howards, who they allege acted strangely around Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday during an economic summit in Beaver Creek.

“His behavior and demeanor wasn’t quite right,” Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren saidon Friday. “The agents tried to question him, and he was argumentative and combative.”

On Monday, another spokesman for the Secret Service refused to say what wasn’t quite right” about Howards’ demeanor and whether federal charges were brought against Howards.

No further comment,” said the spokesman, Jonathan Cherry.

The New York Times notes two other case of the Bush/Cheney effort to stifle free speech and dissent that are before the courts. In another Colorado case two people are suing for being evicted from a public event because their car had an anti-war sticker. The other case is in West Virginia where two people were arrested for wearing ant-Bush t-shirts.

Last April in a post entitled “Annoy Me, Go to Jail” we discussed this same intolerance of any thing not pleasing to Republican ears and its attempt to stifle free speech on the internet.

Republican hypocrisy crys out to us again and again . The Constitution is a great thing until someone exercises it against them – like the right to free speech.

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Poor Tim Eyman. Things must really be getting tough for his getting signatures on his anti- government type initiatives. Now he wants that same government to protect him whose funds and services he keeps trying to cut with his initiatives. Tim files lots of initiatives in Washington State. It’s his business.

As he puts it, he doesn’t want people who oppose his initiatives to be “pushing, shoving, touching, spitting, or throwing objects, yelling, screaming, or being verbally abusive, blocking or intimidating” him when he asks them to cut government services like libraries or fixing roads or keeping fire and police stations open.

And he means business because, gasp, he’s filed another initiative. More business.

Anyway, there are already laws against “pushing, shoving, touching, spitting, or throwing objects, yelling, screaming, or being verbally abusive, blocking or intimidation” Its usually goes under the definition of harassment. All you need to do is call 911, Tim. That’s one of the services our tax dollars provide. And fortunately your effort to reduce local tax dollars with Initiative 864 failed so you didn’t further force us to cut local police services.

But existing laws aren’t good enough for Tim it seems. He wants special protection because he is such a special and important person carrying out his, I mean, the people’s business. He also doesn’t want anyone who disagrees with him “being within twenty feet of any person gathering signatures and any person trying to sign a petition.”

In other words Tim wants to abolish free speech, you know, like void the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Well good luck Tim. You’ve joined hands and minds (sic) with President Bush who likewise wants to remove anyone who disagrees with him. But you’re one upping him. He only moves them a mile or two away.

And your penalty for being within 20 feet of Tim Eyman while he’s getting signatures and you say something like “Are you kidding? I won’t sign your initiative and I urge anyone else who can hear me, also not to sign.” A class C Felony. You know like the felony where you lose your right to vote. Oh and a class C felony sends you to jail for at least 1 year and up to 5 years. Tim also wants you to be fined up to $10,000.

Welcome to Tim’s world. Tim, say Hi to Karl the next time you see him.

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President Hu Jinao of China is visiting Washington state this Tues. Everyone from Starbucks to Microsoft to Boeing to Governor Gregoire and former Governor Locke are lined up to talk about free trade and China increasing trade with Washington State. In their eagerness to get more trade with China will anyone dare mention the words free speech and democracy to President Hu?

When Hu visits the White House two days later we know he will meet a kindred spirit in controlling and censoring the news and what people can see and hear. So we can expect nothing there in regards to free speech rights, like in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

But what about Washington State? The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that ,

U.S. tech giants are helping the Chinese express themselves online — as long as they don’t write about democracy, Tibet, sex, Tiananmen Square, Falun Gong, government corruption or any other taboo subject.

Microsoft bans “democracy” and “Dalai Lama” from the Chinese version of its blog site. Yahoo recently turned over information that helped the Chinese government track down and imprison a journalist for the crime of
forwarding an e-mail. Google omits banned publications from its Chinese news service. “

In the quest for dollars I am sure the talk will center on apples and wheat and jet planes and coffee and software. Right now China is getting the better end of the deal. The US Census Bureau as reported by The Economic Policy Institute said the international deficit in goods and services trade reached a record level of $726 billion in 2005, an 18% increase over 2004.

As the EPI notes,

China’s trade surplus with the United States increased by 24.5% in 2005, to $202 billion, the United States’ largest bilateral deficit. This bilateral deficit with China increased $40 billion in 2005, more than accounting for the entire increase in the United States’ non-oil trade deficit.”
“U.S. imports from China are six times the value of U.S. exports to China, making it the United States’ most imbalanced trading relationship. U.S. imports from China were $243 billion in 2005 (an increase of 24%), making China the second largest exporter of goods to the United States, behind Canada at $288 billion. At current rates of growth, China will surpass Canada and become the largest supplier of U.S. imports within the next two years.”

But there is the additional cost here as the US tries to encourage China to import more American goods and services. That is the cost of the US turning a blind eye to China on censorship and free speech. Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo in their quest to increase trade with China have all agreed to Chinese censorship of the Internet.

Will anyone meeting with President Hu have the courage to talk about this issue? Or will the dollars signs of trade cloud their eyes and plug their ears?

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Why is it that I don’t have much faith in the Republicans? I guess it’s because I don’t trust their motives.

As a result of goggling on “bloggers for free speech” I came up with the following blog posted in January by Declan McCullagh entitled “Create an e-annoyance, go to jail”

The blog starts out: “Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime. It’s no joke. Last Thursday (Jan 2, 2006), President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity. In other words, it’s OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.”

What came to my mind is, isn’t this a great way for Bush and his corporate Cronies and Republicans to further intimidate those exercising free speech. How great for them to go after someone that criticizes (read annoys) Bush and his friends because they did not identify themselves.

But if they identify themselves, well then Bush doesn’t have to wait for the FBI to id them, they already know.

Remember the anti thought police ejecting Cindy Sheehan and Beverly Young, wife of a Republican Representative, for both wearing t-shirts to Bush’s State of the Union address. The Bush and Rove atmosphere is to control totally what we think and do.

As the article on Sheehan and Young pointed out, while a 1946 law “prohibits demonstrations within any of the Capitol buildings” a later U.S. Capitol Police Board regulation clarified “demonstration activity” to include “parading, picketing, speechmaking, holding vigils, sit-ins, or other expressive conduct … but does not include merely wearing Tee-shirts, buttons or other similar articles of apparel that convey a message.”

They were released but not before the Bush people made their point. Don’t question what they do. Don’t dare create controversy. Let’s let Americans believe that everyone is happy by writing dissenters out of the movie script. Make certain that nowhere on the Bush set is there any little annoyances while we’re filming The Great American Dream of George Bush as he Battles the Evil Empire Around the World.

So far wearing of t-shirts does not require that one also have a name tag. But then if you refuse to identify yourself to police if asked that’s another story. But we’ll all soon be in a huge databank anyway with our National ID cards.

The new law on not annoying people over the internet was stuck into the Women Against Violence and Department of Justice Reauthorization Bill. As McCullagh notes: Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called “Preventing Cyberstalking.” It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet “without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy.”

To grease the rails for this idea, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and the section’s other sponsors slipped it into an unrelated, must-pass bill to fund the Department of Justice. The plan: to make it politically infeasible for politicians to oppose the measure.

The tactic worked. The bill cleared the House of Representatives by voice vote, and the Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 16.

Yes another favorite tactic of Republicans. They control both the House and Senate and they can do whatever they want. They love to slip things into things. I wonder if it’s some kind of sexual perversion. In a way it’s akin to sexual harassment. The male dominated Republican Congress thinks that somehow the public loves things secretly being slipped in.

The reality is that if people really knew what they were doing and it was openly discussed first, it probably never would happen.Yet there is nothing like doing it in the dead of night, in the dark when they think nobody is looking. The Republicans don’t have the courage to do it in the open.

So while they do it secretly in the dark without identifying themselves beforehand, if at all; they want you to identify yourself if you are going to make any comments that may annoy them..

Here’s the actual language: “Whoever…utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet… without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person…who receives the communications…shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

The problem is that the new language is too broad. While I’m sure it was originally meant to dealt with a legitimate issue – harassment of women and others at places like abortion clinics, Republicans have expanded the issue to include a vague term of annoy and extend the provision beyond what was originally phone calls to all internet interactions.

Unscreened Blogs frequently carry a lot of annoying comments, and comments that frequently go beyond that. While there may be legitimate reasons for anonymous e-mails and posting, like losing your job, that is not, as I have written a number of times on the widely read Washington State blog Horsesass.org, the reason that trolls and others post anonymously and try to hide their real identity.

Because even when Republican trolls are exposed, like one was recently on Horsesass.org, they still get to keep their job it seems because that is their job. For most of those people it is that they would never say what they say if they had to identify themselves because it would be embarrassing to them. They are just cowards. And they are not out for a serious discussion of the issues.

But beyond this, the ambiguity of the meaning of the word annoy should remind people that Bush does not like to be annoyed. And that we are at war as Bush is fond of reminding us these days.

But its more than just a war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read the March 6 Capital Hill Blue’s blog. Bush declares war on freedom of the press. And if that isn’t enough to get you going do a little history refresher on the Sedition Act of 1918. Even though is was repealed in 1922, some of the language sounds pretty similar to attitudes of Bush.

Taken from the Act as printed at Wikipedia “Whoever, when the United States is at war ……shall willfully utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States, or the flag of the United States, or the uniform of the Army or Navy of the United States into contempt, scorn, contumely, or disrepute, or shall willfully utter, print, write, or publish any language intended to incite, provoke, or encourage resistance to the United States, or to promote the cause of its enemies, or shall willfully display the flag of any foreign enemy, or shall willfully by utterance, writing, printing, publication, or language spoken, urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production in this country of any thing or things, product or products, necessary or essential to the prosecution of the war in which the United States may be engaged ,with intent by such curtailment to cripple or hinder the United States in the prosecution of war, and whoever shall willfully advocate, teach, defend, or suggest the doing of any of the acts or things in this section enumerated, and whoever shall by word or act support or favor the cause of any country with which the United States is at war or by word or act oppose the cause of the United States therein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or the imprisonment for not more than twenty years,”

Even though the Act was repealed, doesn’t it sound in many ways like things Bush has said. While not fining you or sending you to prison, he and Rove and the Republicans are trying to brand anyone who opposes them as a traitor because we are at war. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. Is it 1984?

See also FAQ The New Annoy Law Explained.

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I’m sorry but I can’t be outraged by the manipulated outrage over the cartoons of Muhammad. It has not been well referenced by the mainstream media that this whole thing has been skilfully used by radical Muslims in an attempt to threaten and intimidate those that support democratic principles. They are trying to use democractic values of tolerance of diversity to further Muslim intolerance. What religion wouldn’t like to not be criticized or questioned? But when they threaten to kill you if you question what they believe then people should be outraged.

Stanley Fish has an interesting commentary on the counterproductive reaction of liberals to strong and diverse opinion in today’s NY Times

Part of this staged outrage being used against democracy happened because Islamic supporters in Denmark went to the Middle East complaining about the Danish cartoons published in the paper in Denmark and included some rabid hatemail depictions that were never published. Those wishing to inflame anger against non-Muslims used this hate mail to further their anti-Western anti-European agenda.

Fanatic Islamic radicals who have taken over the public voice of Islam in the Middle East found these phony “cartoons” as a blessing to manipulate the faithful. It’s no surprise. These radical Islamics see no contradiction on issuing a fatwa on Salmam Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses and their religion. They express outrage that a Danish newspaper publishes some cartoons of Muhammad but accept car bombings and assassinations and beheadings.

Emran Qureshi decries what has happened in an article in today’s New York Times entitled “The Islam the Riots Drowned Out”

Remember the popularity of the “What would Jesus do? ” campaign?

One should ask this same question but substitute Muhammad.
What kind of car would Muhammad use as a car bomb?
What weapon would Muhammad use to behead people he kidnapped?

The absurdity is that the radicals would condone violence in the name of Muhammad and people see this is the voice of Islam. I don’t see Muhammad as condoning car bombs and beheadings as a way to further Islam.

Before we think the radical wing of Islam is an anomality in world history and culture we must remember the history of Christianity. Seems to me that things like the Inquisition and nonbelievers being burned at the stake and all the Kings and Queens and common folk killed in Britain in the fight between Catholicism and Protestantism show that Christianity is no paragon of tolerance of different beliefs and has seen its own share of fanatic violence in the name of its God.

Seems people in glass house should think twice before passing judgment on Islamic violence as something unique in world history.

The challenge of all religions and cultures is one of how to live together despite our diversity and different religious beliefs. The modern world is really not modern when it comes to religion and war and killing nonbelievers. It’s remains just more of the same.

History says we should not be fooled by those who believe that there is only one true religion and are willing to kill to prove it to be so. Only when people are free to choose their religion will the world be truly modern. Christians, Jews, Muslims and all other believers of faith are not true believers if one is forced to accept their religion or die. Bombing and killing people to further a religious faith is not religion but is using dogma and coercion and fear and death to enforce the rule of totalitarianism.

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Cindy Sheehan was arrested for wearing a shirt that listed the number of American dead in Iraq. She was invited to hear Bush give his “State of the Union” address to Congress. You can read about it at AfterDowningStreet.org.

What a mockery Bush is making of America. It’s time for people to realize that our freedoms do not exist if we can not exercise them. Bush’s people are control freaks. They are afraid to hear any dissenting views and opinions. This is not new. There are many previous reports of people being screened from Bush events, like because they are Democrats or not willing to pledge loyalty to Bush.

In 2003 the ACLU cited a dozen examples where protesters were ordered to”ProtestZones” far away from Bush while supporters were not restricted.

James Bovard writes on The American Conservative website about how the Bush”Administration quarantines dissent” with its free speech zones.

And its not just war as the following instance written by Bovard points out:

When Bush came to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, “The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us.” The local police, at the Secret Service’s behest, set up a “designated free-speech zone” on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush’s speech. The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, though folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president’s path. Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct; the police also confiscated his sign. Neel later commented, “As far as I’m concerned, the whole country is a free speech zone. If the Bush administration has its way, anyone who criticizes them will be out of sight and out of mind.””

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