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Author Topic: Professor Pino - enough is enough - I've had it.  (Read 5230 times)
ccp
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« on: March 03, 2007, 11:06:33 AM »

The Kent State professor who advocates Jihad:

http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/living/education/16808652.htm

I got to love the part of his rants about the West's treatment of woman as sexual commodities.   How can any objective person believe the position of women in the Muslim world as better than in the Wests?

If I was a lawyer I would find some way to bring him up on criminal charges.  What about assault?  What about inciting a riot?

This guy advocates murder and the nuts on the left protect him with the mantra *free speech*.   Give me a goddamn break.   Right. Our brave men and women troops are fighting for the right of free speech including the right to kill all the people they are risking their lives for!

What the h... is wrong with this country?   Why can't we stand up as a unified block and defend ourselves?  This guy belongs in jail for inciting terrorism.   I believe it really is all about politics.   The demcrats vs. the recans.  How we are going to distribute wealth?   Who is paying the taxes, the health care, retirement, etc.?   If a crat led us into Iraq the two sides would still be fighting like mad but just have the opposite positions.  If a crat are in power the cans neutriliize 'em so they can't fight for the defense of our country.  If the cans are in power the crats do the same.

I'm fed up with these stories.  Does this crap from a professor at a (State funded no less) school outrage anyone else?   Anyone here going to argue the ACLU position?  Comin let me have it.  Let me here how this freedom is exactly what makes our country great.  IMO it is exactly this that is going to make our country eventually fall apart.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2007, 11:07:23 PM »

1) "Lawyers" don't bring someone up on charges, district attorneys do.

2) Do you know what the legal definition of "assault" is?

3)  "Inciting a riot" requires the imminent possibility of a riot.  Is that present here?

4) Please explain what you mean by this:  "Our brave men and women troops are fighting for the right of free speech including the right to kill all the people they are risking their lives for!"

5) "Let me here (sic) how this freedom is exactly what makes our country great.  IMO it is exactly this that is going to make our country eventually fall apart."

OK, here goes, but you may find it difficult to hear tongue  Freedom IS what makes our country great.  This guy is wrong.  This guy is morally repulsive.  Thanks to free speech, we now know he is amongst us.  Thanks to free speech we see whether other people agree and if so we know what our job is-- to freely speak Truth and cure ignorance and hatred with knowledge and higher consciousness.  The day we are not up to that is the day we fall apart.


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ccp
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« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2007, 11:36:36 AM »

 "Lawyers" don't bring someone up on charges, district attorneys do.

2) Do you know what the legal definition of "assault" is?

3)  "Inciting a riot" requires the imminent possibility of a riot.  Is that present here?

4) Please explain what you mean by this:  "Our brave men and women troops are fighting for the right of free speech including the right to kill all the people they are risking their lives for!"

5) "Let me here (sic) how this freedom is exactly what makes our country great.  IMO it is exactly this that is going to make our country eventually fall apart."

Hey Crafty,

Thanks for the input - I expected some disagreement and that is what I am looking for.

Well, are there no laws that protect our citizens from those in this country who are calling for war against us?  Perhaps treason?

If so then why should not a DA bring this guy up on charges.  If this guy made threats against the President he would be investigated by Secret Service.  If he makes statements that are essentially asking his radical muslim buddies to bring arms against us and kill Americans the threat may not mean iminent danger but the threat is still a threat of harm.  I see no difference.

As to number four it was a typo.   It makes no sense to me that our brave men and women should risk their life and limb let alone place their and their families lives on hold for someone to be able to exercise free speech which includes the right to call for enemies to kill the same people they are fighting for.

Please correct me if I am wrong but you've posted you are a Libertarian.   Is/are there any limits to free speech in your view?

Our enemies seem to be doing a fine job exploiting our free speech and endless dissenting views.  I just don't see how limitless free speech makes us stronger.


 

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2007, 12:28:40 PM »

Woof CCP:

Thank you for the much more reasoned tone.

We're about to go out for lunch so I will get to this later.

TAC,
CD
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SB_Mig
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« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2007, 02:43:40 PM »

ccp,

Before I get too detailed, let me first (as did Crafty) agree that the words spoken are wrong and morally repulsive. You have zero argument from me in that regard. However, I  can't get on the censorship train.

Since you seem to advocate at least some form of censorship, my questions to you would be these:

What gets included on your list of "offensive speech"? Pro-jihadi rants? Anti-American rants? Speech that advocates violence? Pro-Conservative speech? Anti-Democratic speech? Or just things with which you don't agree?

Let's look at two examples of "offensive" speech:

Martin Luther King, Jr. made numerous speeches advocating civil rights and fair treatment for all. At the time, there were segments of the population who vehemently disagreed with him and many who considered him a serious threat. Should he have been censored by those segments of the population?

Anne Coulter just called John Edwards a "faggot". Again, many people might agree with her sentiments, but there is probably a large segment of the population who would consider her words offensive, dangerous, or inciteful.

Now, I am not saying that either of these speakers is on par with the professor you quote, but I list them as very real examples of situations in which censorship might have been/is being called for.

What is the criteria for offensive speech and who gets to decide what is offensive?

You? You and your neighbors? The city council? State government? Nationally elected officials? As the saying goes, "Opinions are like noses, everybody's got one". What makes your opinion on speech that should be censored the correct one? Is there a standard by which censorship should be measured? Who makes that standard? It is near impossible to get people to agree on issues like gun control and reproductive rights, so how do we get people to decide on the standard for free speech?

Freedom of speech allows us to identify the segments of the population that we do or don't agree with, makes us consider viewpoints which we may not always hear, and enables us to form opinions on subjects which we haven't considered. Censorship denies us the ability to decide as individuals and as society what we will or will not tolerate. I don't agree with many things that I hear said by a wide variety of people, but just as they have the right to say it, I have the right to ignore it.

Let the nuts (regardless of political position) rant. The open minded will sort through the nonsense and come to their own conclusions. If we are concerned about the influence of dangerous speech on a population, then perhaps we should be paying more attention to how the people are receiving and deciphering the message as opposed to cutting the message out all together. The danger of censorship is that it not only denies people the right to expression, but at some point will deny you the opportunity to hear what you want.

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"Our enemies seem to be doing a fine job exploiting our free speech and endless dissenting views.  I just don't see how limitless free speech makes us stronger."

Our enemies also live in societies in which free speech, freedom of access to information, freedom of movement, and freedom of religion are considered dangerous. They follow one belief system and we can see how that works out in the long run...not very well. Our freedoms are what set us apart, make us a strong society, help us to evolve as a nation, and make for open, if sometimes heated, discussion. Dissenting views are what make our country great. I can only imagine the heated discussions that took place with the founding of this great nation. And thank goodness for those debates.

I would hate to think of a world in which these things were viewed as dangerous or did not exist.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2007, 09:47:02 PM »

CCP:

Before giving a fuller response, I think I will await your response to SB Migs questions for you.   For the moment I will add:

1) I consider America to have been profoundly blessed by having the Founding Fathers that we did.  I did run for the US Congress 3x for the L. Party but find the Party to have a goodly number of quirky people lacking in basic social skills.  I let my membership in the party lapse when the candidate for Gov. of CA had a major campaign issue around the prohibition to own ferrets. 

 I certainly don't agree with all libertarian positions e.g. open borders.  My views on foreign affairs can be fit under a libertarian roof by how I define national security in the modern context, but my understanding is that my views are very much a minority position for self-described libertarians. 

2)  May I suggest you do a bit of research as to current Constitutional First Amendment Doctrine-- including the concept of "clear and present danger"?  Communism advocated the overthrow of the US government, yet we didn't not outlaw the advocacy of Communisim-- unless such advocacy was about to inspire someone to actually try it.  If you sense some conceptual problems with this you are not alone, but of course the problem is what other standard would you put in its place?

3)  In addition to the questions raised/points by SB Mig,  I would add that when you prevent free speech, you deny yourself and our society from knowing what forces are amongst us-- kind of like price controls distort the flow of information about supply and demand.

Your question about the advocacy of Jihad is a good one and is worthy of serious and measured conversation.  I agree that there is a point at which speech becomes seditious action-- but how do we define that point without losing for what we fight?

TAC,
Marc
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rogt
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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2007, 02:38:42 PM »

I got to love the part of his rants about the West's treatment of woman as sexual commodities.   How can any objective person believe the position of women in the Muslim world as better than in the Wests?

Specifically regarding his statements about women, the exact quote is

"You are a nation that permits the production, trading and usage of drugs, gambling, the sex trade, spreads diseases that were unknown to man in the past, such as AIDS, and turns women into commodities for sale"

Now I'm not some prude or ultra-feminized male, but would you not agree that the hyper-sexualization of women to sell products has gotten a bit out of hand in our society?

It's also interesting to contrast the US with Europe where, if anything, the ads and TV shows you see are a lot racier and porn is much less taboo.  By and large though, Europe doesn't seem to have the levels of eating disorders, depression, STDs, and teen pregnancies we see among young girls here.  From a quick search for some research data:

Quote
http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/news/press/1998/100198.htm

The  European Study Institute, sponsored by Advocates for Youth in collaboration with the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, found that the age of first intercourse in the Netherlands is 17.0 years, 16.2 in Germany, and 16.8 in France compared to 15.8 in the United States.

....

Major differences between these countries (in Europe) and the U.S. include:

    * Teen reproductive health is treated as a public health issue, not a political or religious one.
    * Research drives public policy to reduce unintended pregnancies, abortion, and STDs.
    * Adolescents have convenient, confidential access to contraception and sexual health information and services, which are usually free.
    * Teens receive open, honest, consistent messages about sexuality from parents, grandparents, media, schools, and health care providers.
    * The governments fund massive, consistent, and long-term public education campaigns that utilize TV, radio, billboards, discos, pharmacies, and clinics to deliver clear, explicit portrayals of responsible sexual behavior.
    * Mass media is a partner, not a problem.

But back to the subject.  It's difficult to characterize the treatment of women in "the Muslim world" as a whole because it's actually comprised of many countries with significant differences in social attitudes.  I agree that most women would consider our society preferable to Saudi Arabia, but not every Muslim nation practices strict adherence to Sharia law.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2007, 08:55:54 PM »

Those are lucid points Rog, but I confess some lack of clarity as to what the subject of this thread is  cheesy

I think CCP intends to raise the issue of the boundary between free speech and sedition/murder, but I could be wrong.  From reading the URL he posts, the particular case he uses as Exhibit A seems to me one full of potential for lawyerly evasions. 

Anyway, I have asked him to consider the questions raised in response by SB Mig and me (and now by you) and then get back to us.
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ccp
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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2007, 09:43:41 PM »

Wow.

Some very thoughtful replies.  Let me think about this a bit.

If someone is calling for Jihad at an airport I would think he would be carted off to be questioned.

I don't know if such speech would warrant an arrest by itself.  I remember a Guatemalan tourist who boarded an airplane in Orlando to fly home for Christmas with his family.  He made a joke to the stewardess that his carry-on had a bomb in it.  Well, to make a long story short he spent his Christmas in jail for his poor sense of humor.

If someone calls for Jihad on the internet we speak of ostracism. 

Now someone gets on the internet and essentially calls for Jihad which as I understand it means a calling to arms against the infidels in the country he lives in.  Is this not what we could define as terrorism?   Should we defend our country against such verbal threats by simply having the student Republican club at the school where he teaches roundly ostrasize him?  Should the student Democrat club all come charging to his defense by pointing out that his right to free speech trumps all else while of course prefacing said defense with the fact that they of course all find the content of his internet posts as reprehensible?

To me it is common sense.  If someone starts advocating others to rise up and kill us it is time to put a stop to this. 

With regards to Rogt's post Crafty would be right that I was referring more about the professor's call for Jihad.  About his statements concerning the treatment of woman I do agree his points have some merit.  No doubt sex sells and this is not necesarily with good results.  I would disagree only in that we could find examples of maltreatment of women (almost?) anywhere.   While he argues that the use of drugs in the US is immoral I could argue that the agricultural industry in Central America, South America, and Asia that exports many of these drugs to the West for profit is just as immoral.  Does not drug addiction and prostitution exist in these places as well?

 
As Crafty points out the freedom to express allows those so inclined to come out of the closet.
From a strategic point of view this professor just outed himself.  I would only hope that law enforcement is now, if not already, watching him closely.  Unless of course we now want to have another debate about his right to privacy.  It seems to me if the ACLU had their way we could simply chat and bicker our way to powerlessness.   The evil forces in China, Iran, and elsewhere are chuckling at our cachophony of different points of view while they bide their time and get stronger.

 

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rogt
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« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2007, 09:33:14 AM »

As Crafty points out the freedom to express allows those so inclined to come out of the closet.
From a strategic point of view this professor just outed himself.  I would only hope that law enforcement is now, if not already, watching him closely.  Unless of course we now want to have another debate about his right to privacy.  It seems to me if the ACLU had their way we could simply chat and bicker our way to powerlessness.   

I know I'm being nit-picky here, but the ACLU has also defended noted conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity when their rights to privacy and free speech came under attack, so defending this professor (if they are) is no more or less consistent with their stated goal of defending everybody's constitutional rights.  If he were part of some armed group that was actually attacking people (as opposed to merely saying words that make CCP uncomfortable), then clearly it would be a different story.

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The evil forces in China, Iran, and elsewhere are chuckling at our cachophony of different points of view while they bide their time and get stronger.

Is your point here that we too should be arresting people merely for having certain different points of view?

Rog
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SB_Mig
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« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2007, 11:54:47 AM »

ccp,

I will again preface my response with some questions:

1) What would fall under your umbrella of treasonous, seditious, dangerous speech? I understand your opposition to the professor, but what else would you consider worthy of censorship?

2) Who dictates what is to be censored?

The answers to these to questions are important because they also relate to some of the statements you made in your response.

Quote
Should we defend our country against such verbal threats by simply having the student Republican club...roundly ostrasize him?  Should the student Democrat club all come charging to his defense by pointing out that his right to free speech trumps all else while...find(ing) the content of his internet posts as reprehensible?

Bear with me and let us look at a hypothetical (although I know people hate to do so):

2012 - Hilary Clinton is re-elected president. Congress and the Senate are run by extreme liberals. We've left Iraq and adopted a "peace be unto you" policy towards our enemies. No fights, no wars, no embargos. The country seems fairly content with the way things are going. Then, an extreme conservative states that the only way we can protect ourselves is through pre-emptive war and massive use of force, things which are now (in this hypothetical future) against the grain. Should this conservative be arrested? Detained? Questioned? Should the Democrat club ostracize him? Would the Republicans now protect his freedom of speech?

I use this hypothectical to point out that while censorship may seem like a good idea in a broad context, it may not always suit your needs in the long run.

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The evil forces in China, Iran, and elsewhere are chuckling at our cachophony of different points of view while they bide their time and get stronger.

I really need some clarification from you on this sentence. Our current administration's goal in foreign policy is to spread democracy. Democracy includes freedoms which do not exist in places like China, Iran, and Russia. Freedoms like...freedom of speech. Am I to believe that you think our cacophony of different views has somehow made us a weaker nation? If that is the case, than what view should we be adopting? And (re: my hypothetical) what happens when the view you want to adopt is no longer in the majority?

Censors walk an extremely fine line between current events, political climate, social climate, and religious belief. You can see things on television now that would have gotten producers arrested even 20 years ago. Radio is full of talk shows on both sides of the spectrum with views that are considered questionable on topics that are sometimes even more questionable. Yet both mediums continue to exist because, ultimately, people can change the channel if they don't like the content.

As a personal aside, I love reading/participating in this forum because it is one of the few places on the internet that I have found true, honest, opposing viewpoints presented and discussed among mature adults (although I have made a few slips myself embarassed). Without our freedom of speech a forum like this WOULD NOT EXIST. I am fortunate to be the product of African-American and European descent. I say fortunate because in my formative years I travelled to Eastern Europe (my mother's birthplace) on a regular basis. I went to places where you could not speak your mind, read what you wanted (we had to sneak comic books to my cousins), watch what you wanted, or state your opposition without fear of reprisal. I would return from these trips with an even greater appreciation of what we have here.

I'm not defending the professor. I happen to think  he's an idiot. I find the individuals who use their freedom of speech to espouse hate, violence, or bloodshed morally reprehensible. But, they have the right to do so. And because of our freedoms, we have  the  right to listen to them, identify them, ignore them, track them, or just plain laugh in their face.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2007, 12:13:19 PM »

Woof All:

Various points seriatim:

1)  Concerning the ACLU:  Yes they occasionally do act as Rog points out-- indeed I was raised in a home where that was the attitude towards the organization and I actually was a member for one year in the mid 80s.  As I received the literature that a member receives though I saw that the organization is very much of the left and, more importantly, quite lacking in intellectual and moral integrity.  I'm asking that we not confuse this thread with a discussion of the ACLU though, just briefly stating for the record my conclusions about the ACLU.

2)  Concerning SB Mig's hypothetical, I see where is trying to go with it but find it to be qualitatively different in to advocating jihad in the current context is to advocate additional violent attacks by a world-wdie fascist movement on the American homeland with an eye to using violence by enemies both foreign and domestic to establish Sharia.  As the famous Supreme Court dicta goes, The Constitution is not a suicide pact!  Furhtermore, in my opinion Sharia is fundamentally inconsistent with core American Consitutional values such as Freedom of Choice, Freedom of Speech and Separation of Church & State. 

3) I share SB Mig's concerns about the dangers of limiting Speech and again encourage CCP to look into American Constitutional Free Speech doctrine that requires some sort of imminence in conjunction with advocacy of illegal acts for the Speech to become illegal.

4)  I agree with SB Mig's belief that our Free Speech is an important strand in what makes this country great and strong-- and agree with Rog that as stated CCP's position reachese conclusions which are unacceptable to me.

TAC,
Marc

PS:  Thank you SB Mig for your kind words about this Forum and its mission.
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SB_Mig
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« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2007, 01:05:22 PM »

All,

A quick link that popped up when I did a search on seditious speech:

http://law.onecle.com/constitution/amendment-01/41-seditious-speech.html

And if you really want to do some reading:

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment01/13.html#1

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2007, 06:32:40 PM »

Thanks for those URLs SBM.

 I have a heavy reading load at the moment, but resonating from my days in law school oh so long ago is this distinction found in the first of your URLs:

"advocacy (as versus) , , , incitement to imminent lawless action".

Since you have presumably read them, including the lengthy second one, would you be so kind as to give a quick summary?
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ccp
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« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2007, 08:39:42 PM »

To Rogt,

No your not being nitpicky. But...  I don't think Hannity or Limbaugh have called for Jihad against the resident citizens, immigrants, and  illegals of the United States or other Western countries.

I am also under the impression, as I suggested, that the ACLU would stop law enforcement's investigation of those enemies of the US who choose to out themselves. Yes I do think they can lawyer us to powerlessness, to inaction, to not defending ourselves.  IMO posting calls for Jihad *is more* than just words.  It *is* a call to arms.  It *is* communicating with potential armies of combatants.  It *is* a plan.  It *is* a conspiracy to commit crimes.

To_Mig,

I am not sure I could come up with a Supreme Court Justice's level of clarity and specificity in formulating a definition of what should be considered treason using legally acceptedl parameters.  To ask me to come up with a broader definition skirts my point that calling for jihad on the internet is clearly a conspiracy to incite violent acts against us. On the other hand, I do admit that I broadened the argument myself by attacking unlimited free speech. Perhaps I took on too difficult a task but my overall hunch on this stands (in my mind).  Also (and frankly), I am not a legal genius  cry.  So who should dictate who gets censored - perhaps the nine the Supreme Court Justices.

And are you actually telling me the cacaphony of views in this country has *not* resulted in inaction on numerous issues?  How can anything get accomplished with so much hot air out there?   This country is more or less evenly divided.  A house divided against itself cannot stand.  (A. Lincoln: circa ~1856)  Are you also suggesting Iran is not hell bent on becoming a military power?   And China as well?

BTW, I got a kick at your pointing out Hillary is running for "re-election".  smiley

To Crafty and all,

I will try to read more on the legal doctrine as suggested.  Many thanks.   

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SB_Mig
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« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2007, 03:20:51 AM »

ccp,

thanks for the responses!

Quote
And are you actually telling me the cacaphony of views in this country has *not* resulted in inaction on numerous issues?

 Absolutely, but I think that the lack of dialogue has been more harmful to our current political situation than the multitude of opinions.

Quote
How can anything get accomplished with so much hot air out there?

That is a question I ask myself every single day.

Quote
Are you also suggesting Iran is not hell bent on becoming a military power?   And China as well?

They are definitely trying. But I don't think that censorship on our part is going to win the battle.

Quote
BTW, I got a kick at your pointing out Hillary is running for "re-election".

I tried to think of the most ridiculous scenario possible, although Kucinich did come to mind.  wink



Crafty,

Basically, the links show that "freedom of speech" or the government's ability to legally censor it tend to be tested on a case by case basis.

The first link is a quick breakdown of the constitutionality of the Sedition Act of 1798, which made illegal malicious writings which defamed...or excited the hatred of the people against the Government, the President, or the Congress. It was  found to be unconstitutional because it interfered with people's right to criticize government and public officials.

The second part of the link lists two instances in which statutes limiting "subversive activities" were overturned, because they infringed on the First and Fourth Amendments. However, theses decisions were based upon construction of the statutes rather than on First Amendment claims with heavy Fourth Amendment overtones.

The second link has only two sections which relate to the situation we are discussing. It presents several cases in which the government's duty to protect its citizens (in this case from treasonous/seditious activity) has been tested. The Smith Act is mentioned in particular.

Upon reading the link, it seems that Professor Pino could actually be found guilty of violating the Smith Act, which makes it a "criminal offense for anyone to knowingly or willfully advocate...the overthrowing of the Government of the United States by force or violence.",  or for anyone to organize/be a member of any association which holds or encourages such beliefs.

Prosecution for violation of the Smith Act was enforced in Dennis v. United States (defendants were charged with conspiracy) in which the Court found the evil sought to be prevented was serious enough to justify suppression of speech. or in this case, justify the defendants' arrests.

However, as in a number of other cases involving the Communist Party and its perceived threat, the Court found that mere advocation of a belief was not the same as advocacy of action, and thus these different members of the CP could not be prosecuted  because they did not present a "clear and present" danger.



So...the question then becomes, "Does Professor Pino present a clear and present danger?"


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G M
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« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2007, 09:04:13 AM »

It's painful, but I find myself in agreement with SB Mig. grin
« Last Edit: March 08, 2007, 10:01:50 AM by G M » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2007, 11:19:05 AM »

SB Mig:

Thank you for that summary, which accords with my memories from law school days.

CCP:

"On the other hand, I do admit that I broadened the argument myself by attacking unlimited free speech."

Precisely so.

"Perhaps I took on too difficult a task but my overall hunch on this stands (in my mind).  Also (and frankly), I am not a legal genius."

Something which had occurred to us as well  cheesy

"So who should dictate who gets censored - perhaps the nine the Supreme Court Justices."

To be precise, they say what the Constitution says about the legality of a given law under the C.  The Executive branch then decides whom to prosecute.

"And are you actually telling me the cacaphony of views in this country has *not* resulted in inaction on numerous issues?  How can anything get accomplished with so much hot air out there?   This country is more or less evenly divided."

Now your argument becomes that we need censorship in order that there be action even when the country is evenly divided???
Maybe it is time for a deep breath and a fresh start?  smiley

TAC,
Marc
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ccp
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« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2007, 10:06:15 PM »

***Now your argument becomes that we need censorship in order that there be action even when the country is evenly divided???***

No my argument has become that this country is in trouble because it is evenly divided.   The theory is majority rule.  But there is no consistent majority.  I don't know how to resolve this.  We can celebrate our freedom of speech all we want but that won't make the problems I point out go away.

Because the task is difficult doesn't mean I don't believe the premise of what I said - that free speech has paralized us.  I disagree that the lack of dialogue has done more harm.   It has led to lack of resolve.  Indecision.

Endless arguing and debating just leads us down the road to defining what is is.



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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2007, 09:33:01 PM »

Today's Peggy Noonan from the WSJ:

===================

'That's Not Nice'
Our political discourse needs less censorship and more self-discipline.

Friday, March 9, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Here is what has been said the past week or so that sparked argument: Bill Maher, on HBO, said a lot of lives would be saved if Vice President Cheney had died, and Ann Coulter, at a conservative political meeting, suggested John Edwards is a "faggot."

She was trying to be funny and get a laugh. He was trying to startle and get applause.

What followed was the predictable kabuki in which politically active groups and individuals feigned dismay as opposed to what many of them really felt, which was grim delight. Conservatives said they were chilled by Mr. Maher's comments, but I don't think they were. They were delighted he revealed what they believe is at the heart of modern liberalism, which is hate.

Liberals amused themselves making believe they were chilled by Ms. Coulter's remarks, but they were not. They were delighted she has revealed what they believe is at the heart of modern conservatism, which is hate.

The truth is many liberals were dismayed by Mr. Maher because he made them look bad, and many conservatives were mad at Ms. Coulter for the same reason.

I realized as I watched it all play out that there's a kind of simple way to know whether something you just heard is something that should not have been said. It is: Did it make you wince? When the Winceometer is triggered, it's an excellent indication that what you just heard is unfortunate and ought not to be repeated.

In both cases, Mr. Maher and Ms. Coulter, when I heard them, I winced. Did you? I thought so. In modern life we wince a lot. It's not the worst thing, but it's better when something makes you smile.





One of the clearest statements ever about the implied limits of legitimate political discourse was made by the imprisoned Socrates in his first dialogue with Crito, when he said, "That's not nice." Actually, it was your grandmother who said "That's not nice." She's the one who probably taught you the wince. It is her wisdom, encapsulated in those three simple words, that is missing from the current debate.
We tie ourselves in knots trying to explain why it is, or why it isn't, always or occasionally, helpful or destructive to use various epithets, or give full voice to our resentments. But the simple wisdom of Grandma-- "That's not nice"--is a good guide. (I should say that when I was a kid, grandmas were older people who had common sense. They had observed something of people, had experienced life directly, not only through books or TV. Almost all of them had religious faith, and had absorbed the teachings of the Bible. Almost all of them sat quietly at the kitchen table, and even when I was a kid they were considered old fashioned. They were often ethnic and had accents. As a matter of fact, all of them were.)

I think that as America has grown more academic or aware of education, the wisdom of Grandma has been denigrated. Or ignored. Or stolen and dressed up as something else. For instance, Rudy Giuliani's success in cleaning up and reviving the city of New York is generally attributed to his embrace of what is called, in academic circles, the broken-window theory. It holds that when criminals see that even small infractions are met and punished, they will understand that larger infractions will be met and punished. It also holds that when neighborhoods deteriorate, criminals are emboldened. People from Harvard won great prizes for these insights.

But all of broken-windows theory comes down to what Grandma always knew and said: "Fix the window or they'll think no one cares! When people think no one cares, they do whatever they want." There was not a single grandmother in America circa 1750-2007 who didn't know this. But no one wants to quote Grandma. She's so yesterday. And her simple teachings have been superseded by more exotic forms of instruction.





Fifty years ago, no one speaking at a respected political gathering would say, would even think of saying that Adlai Stevenson is a faggot. Nor would Arthur Godfrey or Jack Paar have declared on their television shows that we'd be better off if Eisenhower died. Is our discourse deteriorating? Yes, it is.
Part of the reason is that Grandma had more sway in the public sphere 50 years ago, which is to say common sense and a sense of decorum had more sway. Another part is that privately people felt they had more room to think or say whatever they wanted without being shamed or shunned. It let the steam out. We think of the 1950s as buttoned up, but in a way America had more give then. Men were understood not to be angels.

Our country now puts less of an emphasis on public decorum, courtliness, self-discipline, decency. America no longer says, "That's not nice." It doesn't want to make value judgments on "good" and "bad." We have come to rely on censorship to maintain decorum. We are very good at letting people know that if they say something we don't like, we'll shame them and shun them, even ruin them.

But censorship doesn't make people improve themselves; it makes people want to rebel. It tells them to toe the line or pay a price. People who are urged in the right direction and taught in the right direction will usually try to discipline and improve themselves from within. But they do not enjoy censorship from without. They fight back. They are rude in order to show they are unbroken.

This is human. And Grandma would have understood this, too.





I think the atmosphere of political correctness is now experienced by normal people--not people who speak on TV, but normal people--as so oppressive, so demanding of constant self-policing, that when someone says something in public that is truly not nice, not nice at all, they can't help but feel that they are witnessing a prison break.
As long as political correctness reigns, the more antic among us will try to break out with great streams of Tourette's-like forbidden words and ideas.

We should forbid less and demand more. We should exert less pressure from without and encourage more discipline from within. We should ask people to be dignified, hope they'll be generous, expect them to be fair. When they're not, we should correct them. But we shouldn't beat them to a pulp. Because that's not nice.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on OpinionJournal.com.

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