Updated -- 11 September 2003
Updated -- 4 July 2005
Meanwhile, back to our previously scheduled programming...
In the aftermath of 9-11-2001, free speech has become an endangered species. Neo-conservatives -- also identified by many as neo-near-Nazis -- have tried to paint those individuals who are in strong disagreement with the unilateral policies of the Bush Administration as unpatriotic -- or worse yet as traitors and/or enemy combatants. It has even been suggested that Senator Bill Frist (the Republican majority leader), "plans to file a bill that would define 'political paranoia' as a mental disorder, paying the way for individuals who suffer from paranoid delusions regarding voter fraud, political persecution and FBI surveillance to receive Medicare reimbursement for any psychiatric treatment they receive." [Hermione Slatkin, Mecial Correspondent for the Swift Report]
Now that's scary! (Or am I just being paranoid?)
Meanwhile, John Ashcroft, Bush's former Attorney General for the United States has said, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve."  This is in contradiction to Thomas Jefferson who had been quoted as saying: "I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." [emphasis added] Unfortunatley, as conservative talk show host, Dennis Miller, has noted, "I think in Washington right now, we might as well start painting those people red and blue." 
This brings up a pointed question. Free Speech is diminishing the Bush Administration's resolve to do exactly what? Impose their narrow views on the world? Do anything they want, without resorting to ethics, morals, laws, and/or justification? Why does this sound similar to Adolph Hitler's obsession with the Fatherland, his phrase, "Deutschland uber alles" (Germany over all others), or something his Minister of Propaganda might have said in a PR moment?
The rather terrifying aspect is that George Bush and his neo-conservative axis of evil members are actively attempting to silence and condemn anyone who disagrees with their extremely narrow Christian fundamentalism and hidden world-conquest agendas. By use of the Patriot Act -- predicated by the 9-11-2001 failure of this same federal government to act appropriately -- and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, these knee-jerk... jerks are attempting with the force of law to impose their views on others, elicit the cooperation of others of like mind, and using financial and other pressures encourage similar compromises of free speech by other organizations and individuals.
In a brief article, entitled "The Perils of Protest", Time Magazine  has noted that: 1) Martin Sheen and his son Charlie lost a VISA TV spot, 2) United Way canceled a Susan Saradon speech in Florida, 3) The Dixie Chicks took a hit for trashing Bush at a London concert, and 4) Madonna censored herself in the non-release of a recent video for her album, American Life. Apparently, VISA, United Way, and a fair percentage of the American public do not believe in free speech, either.
Madonna's motivation, it should be noted, may be involved more with not showing "a scene in which she tosses a hand grenade to a George W. Bush look-alike, who uses it to light a cigar", than in a backing away from her own concept of Free Speech. Such a video, as it turns out, might well have resulted in her being arrested and questioned for "threatening the President." That sort of thing has been done before, if not frequently.
More recently, Richard Corliss  has reported on one view of the reason that Barry Bonds's baseball career was stained by drug allegations was that Bonds was a "trophy martyr." "It's part of the Bush-Ashcroft platform. Knock off the celebrities, get total obedience to a federal mandate at the cost of the reputation of people." The Bush Administration's eager willingness to trash anyone's reputation with lies, deceit, and outright falsifications has in fact become legendary.
And when the Supreme Court took the radical notion of upholding the constitutionality of campaign-finance reform (rejecting arguments that it violated the First Amendment), Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, claiming that "This is a sad day for the freedom of speech."  The curious part is that freedom of speech implies that Scalia can make such stupid statements. <grin>
Clearly, the atmosphere for free speech in the "land of the free and the home of the brave" is being threatened at every turn. As Laurens van der Post has said, "Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced that they are right."  This applies to religious fundamentalism as well as would-be architects of world control. Mark Twain, taking a more humorous approach at the religious fanatics, has said, "I admire the serene assurance of those who have religious faith. It is wonderful to observe the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces." 
It has become apparent that those who are absolutely convinced of their destined attempt to remake the world are not going to give any allowance to tolerance, diversity, or anyone else's opinion. These are the same sort of folk who wish to impose a mammoth rock containing the Ten Commandments on the citizens of Alabama, or in posting the phrase In God We Trust on public buildings throughout the land. Both are attempts to impose a religious view on others, and in the process, deny them the right to their own opinions and free speech.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, Bush's handlers took some additional steps to shield their (alleged) boss from being exposed to diverse viewpoints. Taking a page from Bill Frist's medical notebook, the handlers are now quarantining dissent, just as one might do with a communicable virus. (Truth has been known, for example, to be communicable!) James Bovard noted in his article, "Quarantining Dissent; How the Secret Service protects Bush from free speech" :
Imagine! Bush has to be protected from free speech! But then, considering President Bush's distinctive lack of curiousity about what is happening in the world and his singular inability to understand anything more than what his handlers feed him, this idea does tend to follow some beknighted logic.
Jim Hightower  described in a bit more detail how the Protection of Republican George (PORG) scenario works.
While it might be acceptable for someone to believe in a cause, the imposition of their beliefs in a manner contrary to the basic freedoms of the Constitution for the United States of America (or other similar and time-honored documents and systems of thought) is fundamentally wrong. Religious fanaticism -- such as practiced by former Attorney General Ashcroft -- is inevitably the ultimate example of someone so convinced he's right that he has no compunction in imposing by force what he has no hope of implementing by reason, logic, or just plain Christian love and compassion. The same applies to beliefs in "manifest destiny", in which a neo-conservative view of the supreme and unchallenged role of the United States in world affairs is being forcibly imposed upon countries with less military power or resources.
Besides blind religious fanaticism, there are other reasons for the threats to free speech. One in particular can be thought of as a side-effect of a covert world agenda which does not countenance any form of interference. This concept is discussed in the article, This War on Terrorism is Bogus, an essay by a ranking member of the British Parliament. The basic gist here is that the lost of Free Speech is based ultimately upon a massive deception at the highest levels of the United States federal government. Certain aspects of this view are echoed from an American perspective by William Rivers Pitt, editor of truthout, who conveyed his perspective in his article, "I Believe." Both of these essays are must reads (as are most of the truthout.org articles).
view are echoed from an American perspective by William Rivers Pitt, editor of truthout, who conveyed his perspective in his article, "I Believe." Both of these essays are must reads (as are most of the truthout.org articles).
Meanwhile, despite the financial and other inhibitions being foisted upon many individuals, celebrities, and organizations who would choose to practice free speech, there are still those who would stand up to be heard. Dennis Kucinich and Barbra Streisand are two who readily come to mind. For example, Dennis Kucinich, United States Congressman (Cleveland, Ohio), made a speech February 17, 2002, in which he openly repudiated President Bush’s war on terror rationale. This important document is included below [with emphasis added]. Also included is a speech by Barbra Streisand, given at the Fourth Annual Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Awards Dinner, where she received the 2001 Liberty and Justice Award.
Admittedly, both of these speeches are by strong members of the Democratic Party of the United States. And some of the comments reflect the traditional concerns of their Party. But there is also a strong sense of rational thought demonstrated -- in contradistinction to the warmongering by President Bush, Attorney General Ashcroft, and others. In addition, Ms. Streisand’s point about Democrats backing away from criticism after 9-11-2001, is an important consideration. It is well established that Presidential approval ratings during times of crisis are high, but such approval ratings are fleeting -- as evidenced by recent polls showing a steady, if predictable, degradation.
[One might also NOTE that Dennis Kucinich is running for President in 2004. What a potential breath of fresh air he represents, albeit 75% of the nation will likely have no opportunity to vote for or against him -- inasmuch as the primary/caucus system will probably end his campaign before most people even hear about him. Sad.]
Southern California Americans for Democratic Action have provided a transcript of a speech by Dennis J. Kuccinish (D-Ohio), which was given on Sunday, February 17, 2002 at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles) -- http://home.earthlink.net/~socalada/ADAWebsite/
United States Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio)
A Prayer for America (to be sung as an overture for America) “My country ‘tis of thee. Sweet land of liberty of thee I sing... From every mountain side, let freedom ring... Long may our land be bright. With freedom's holy light...” “Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave. O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” “America, America, God shed grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea....”
I offer these brief remarks today as a prayer for our country, with love of democracy, as a celebration of our country. With love for our country. With hope for our country. With a belief that the light of freedom cannot be extinguished as long as it is inside of us. With a belief that freedom rings resoundingly in a democracy each time we speak freely. With the understanding that freedom stirs the human heart and fear stills it. With the belief that a free people cannot walk in fear and faith at the same time. With the understanding that there is a deeper truth expressed in the unity of the United States. That implicate in the union of our country is the union of all people. That all people are essentially one. That the world is interconnected not only on the material level of economics, trade, communication, and transportation, but interconnected through human Consciousness, through the human heart, through the heart of the world, through the simply expressed impulse and yearning to be and to breathe free. I offer this prayer for America.
Let us pray that our nation will remember that the unfolding of the promise of democracy in our nation paralleled the striving for civil rights. That is why we must challenge the rationale of the Patriot Act. We must ask why should America put aside guarantees of constitutional justice?
How can we justify in effect canceling The First Amendment and the right of free speech, the right to peaceably assemble?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Fourth Amendment, probable cause, the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Fifth Amendment, nullifying due process, and allowing for indefinite incarceration without a trial?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Sixth Amendment, the right to prompt and public trial?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Eighth Amendment which protects against cruel and unusual punishment?
We cannot justify widespread wiretaps and Inter Net surveillance without judicial supervision, let alone with it. We cannot justify secret searches without a warrant. We cannot justify giving the Attorney General the ability to designate domestic terror groups. We cannot justify giving the FBI total access to any type of data which may exist in any system anywhere such as medical records and financial records.
We cannot justify giving the CIA the ability to target people in this country for intelligence surveillance [or designating them Enemy Combatants]. We cannot justify a government which takes from the people our right to privacy and then assumes for its own operations a right to total secrecy. The Attorney General recently covered up a statue of Lady Justice showing her bosom as if to underscore there is no danger of justice exposing herself at this time, before this administration.
Let us pray that our nation’s leaders will not be overcome with fear. Because today there is great fear in our great Capitol. And this must be understood before we can ask about the shortcomings of Congress in the current environment. The great fear began when we had to evacuate the Capitol on September 11. It continued when we had to leave the Capitol again when a bomb scare occurred as members were pressing the CIA during a secret briefing. It continued when we abandoned Washington when anthrax, possibly from a government lab, arrived in the mail. It continued when the Attorney General declared a nationwide terror alert and then the Administration brought the destructive Patriot Bill to the floor of the House. It continued in the release of the Bin Laden tapes at the same time the President was announcing the withdrawal from the ABM treaty. It remains present in the cordoning off of the Capitol. It is present in the camouflaged armed national guardsmen who greet members of Congress each day we enter the Capitol campus. It is present in the labyrinth of concrete barriers through which we must pass each time we go to vote. The trappings of a state of siege trap us in a state of fear, ill equipped to deal with the Patriot Games, the Mind Games, the War Games of an unelected President and his unelected Vice President.
Let us pray that our country will stop this war. “To promote the common defense” is one of the formational principles of America. Our Congress gave the President the ability to respond to the tragedy of September the Eleventh. We licensed a response to those who helped bring the terror of September the Eleventh. But we the people and our elected representatives must reserve the right to measure the response, to proportion the response, to challenge the response, and to correct the response.
Because we did not authorize the invasion of Iraq. We did not authorize the invasion of Iran. We did not authorize the invasion of North Korea. We did not authorize the bombing of civilians in Afghanistan. We did not authorize permanent detainees in Guantanamo Bay. We did not authorize the withdrawal from the Geneva Convention. We did not authorize military tribunals suspending due process and habeas corpus. We did not authorize assassination squads. We did not authorize the resurrection of COINTELPRO. We did not authorize the repeal of the Bill of Rights. We did not authorize the revocation of the Constitution. We did not authorize national identity cards. We did not authorize the eye of Big Brother to peer from cameras throughout our cities. We did not authorize an eye for an eye. Nor did we ask that the blood of innocent people, who perished on September 11, be avenged with the blood of innocent villagers in Afghanistan. We did not authorize the administration to wage war anytime, anywhere, anyhow it pleases. We did not authorize war without end. We did not authorize a permanent war economy.
Yet we are upon the threshold of a permanent war economy. The President has requested a $45.6 billion increase in military spending. All defense-related programs will cost close to $400 billion. Consider that the Department of Defense has never passed an independent audit. Consider that the Inspector General has notified Congress that the Pentagon cannot properly account for $1.2 trillion in transactions. Consider that in recent years the Dept. of Defense could not match $22 billion worth of expenditures to the items it purchased, wrote off as lost, billions of dollars worth of in-transit inventory and stored nearly $30 billion worth of spare parts it did not need.
Yet the defense budget grows with more money for weapons systems to fight a cold war which ended, weapon systems in search of new enemies to create new wars. This has nothing to do with fighting terror. This has everything to do with fueling a military industrial machine with the treasure of our nation, risking the future of our nation, risking democracy itself with the militarization of thought which follows the militarization of the budget.
Let us pray for our children. Our children deserve a world without end. Not a war without end. Our children deserve a world free of the terror of hunger, free of the terror of poor health care, free of the terror of homelessness, free of the terror of ignorance, free of the terror of hopelessness, free of the terror of policies which are committed to a world view which is not appropriate for the survival of a free people, not appropriate for the survival of democratic values, not appropriate for the survival of our nation, and not appropriate for the survival of the world.
Let us pray that we have the courage and the will as a people and as a nation to shore ourselves up, to reclaim from the ruins of September the Eleventh our democratic traditions. Let us declare our love for democracy. Let us declare our intent for peace. Let us work to make nonviolence an organizing principle in our own society. Let us recommit ourselves to the slow and painstaking work of statecraft, which sees peace, not war as being inevitable. Let us work for a world where someday war becomes archaic. That is the vision which the proposal to create a Department of Peace envisions. Forty-three members of congress are now cosponsoring the legislation. Let us work for a world where nuclear disarmament is an imperative. That is why we must begin by insisting on the commitments of the ABM treaty. That is why we must be steadfast for nonproliferation.
Let us work for a world where America can lead the way in banning weapons of mass destruction not only from our land and sea and sky but from outer space itself. That is the vision of HR 3616: A universe free of fear. Where we can look up at God’s creation in the stars and imagine infinite wisdom, infinite peace, infinite possibilities. Not infinite war, because we are taught that the kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.
Let us pray that we have the courage to replace the images of death which haunt us, the layers of images of September the Eleventh, faded into images of patriotism, spliced into images of military mobilization, jump cut into images of our secular celebrations of the World Series, New Year’s Eve, the Superbowl, the Olympics, the strobic flashes which touch our deepest fears, let us replace those images with the work of human relations, reaching out to people, helping our own citizens here at home, lifting the plight of the poor everywhere. That is the America which has the ability to rally the support of the world. That is the America which stands not in pursuit of an axis of evil, but which is itself at the axis of hope and faith and peace and freedom.
America, America. God shed grace on thee. Crown thy good, America. Not with weapons of mass destruction. Not with invocations of an axis of evil. Not through breaking international treaties. Not through establishing America as king of a unipolar world. Crown thy good America.
America, America. Let us pray for our country. Let us love our country. Let us defend our country not only from the threats without but from the threats within. Crown thy good, America. Crown thy good with brotherhood, and sisterhood. And crown thy good with compassion and restraint and forbearance and a commitment to peace, to democracy, to economic justice here at home and throughout the world. Crown thy good, America. Crown thy good America. Crown thy good.
Send replies to Dkucinich@AOL.com
Barbra Streisand accepting the 2001 Liberty and Justice Award at the Fourth Annual Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Awards Dinner.
When I was making Yentl, I learned that the wise men who wrote the Talmud believed it was okay to argue with God, be angry with God, wrestle with God. What they didn’t want you to be was indifferent to God. Indifference was unacceptable then. And indifference is unacceptable now.
This is certainly true as our nation wrestles with serious issues that can no longer be ignored - even in wartime. Across the country, Americans have come together in the face of the tragedy of September 11th. In responding to that horror, we all became brothers and sisters, where there was no discrimination, no racial or national divides. That day, ironically, brought out the best in people. With lives on the line, people understood that the soul has no color; that inside we’re all the same. We saw the possibility, as one rabbi put it, of the “Re-United States of America.”
Today, the country stands united behind our president because we need him to succeed. We all pray that President Bush gets good advice and makes wise decisions. But heartfelt patriotism does not mean silence.
Yet, we already see efforts to stifle independent thought and free speech. I’ve even heard that certain right-wing commentators and editors have announced that they were forming an organization to police the press. Bill Maher was threatened as host of Politically Incorrect for being... politically incorrect [and ultimately lost his job]. Professors and journalists’ jobs are under review simply for criticizing U.S. policy.
White House press spokesman Ari Fleisher first warned that “We should watch what we say,” as if democratic debate were a threat to the war on terrorism. But Fleisher had it backwards: We wage the war on terrorism precisely to defend the right to democratic debate.
And now it’s particularly important to speak out, because the sudden shift from peace and prosperity to war and recession raises fundamental questions about the direction of our country.
Consider this: Over 800,000 people have lost their jobs since September 11 and only one-third of them are eligible for unemployment insurance. In recessions, the federal government usually steps in, extends unemployment benefits, and helps put people back to work. But in today’s Washington, the Republican-controlled House passed a stimulus bill that contains almost nothing for the unemployed, yet includes 25 billion in retroactive tax cuts for big corporations. It’s the reverse Robin Hood theory - take from the poor and give to the rich. IBM would get $1.4 billion, GM, $833 million ... and Enron, whose executives are among the president’s leading donors, would get $254 million - if it stays in business long enough to collect it. That isn’t a stimulus, it’s a scandal.
It doesn’t make sense. We’re spending a billion dollars a month on the war. We’ve got real domestic security needs that have to be met. We passed the last set of tax cuts, and now the President’s own budget director says we’re looking at deficits for as long as the eye can see, as the Democrats predicted, I might add! The country can’t afford these tax cuts. And it can’t afford indifference either.
After September 11th, a lot of us took down articles and ads critical of the president. Congressional Democrats embraced bipartisan unity. Yet, only 10 days later, the Wall Street Journal urged the president to use the crisis to force through the entire conservative agenda - upper end tax cuts, oil drilling in ANWR, fast track, even conservative judges - the full catastrophe. Since then, the Republican Congress has tried to do just that. Attorney General Ashcroft has gone even further, claiming unprecedented police powers in the name of national security.
Hell, he’s even got Bill Safire scared! All of us want this nation to be safer. But you can’t defend America by attacking the very rights and liberties that we're fighting for.
And isn’t it a little hypocritical to suspend people’s rights, yet not allow the FBI to check whether suspected terrorists have purchased guns? It doesn’t make sense!
And why is this administration cloaked in secrecy-from the Cheney energy task force meetings, to issuing an executive order locking up historical presidential papers that, by law, were set to be released to the public? What is there to hide?
I say it’s time for our representatives in Congress - even those afraid of not being re-elected - and for our citizen leaders, for each and everyone one of us to stand up and speak out. This is not a question of party, but of principle.
What’s worrisome is that too many people of conscience are biting their tongues, fearing they'll be perceived as unpatriotic. In fact, we need to forcefully engage the argument about what makes America - America, the country we all love. Do we want corporate tax giveaways, or help for the unemployed? Opening public lands to oil companies and logging interests, or renewable energy and conservation? An America where elections end up in the courts, or where election reform insures that every vote is counted? A justice department and judiciary that threatens a woman’s right to choose and the elderly’s right to a dignified exit, or a renewed commitment to the freedom of choice and liberty in a time of crisis?
Let’s have the debate. We can argue about this, wrestle with this, but we can’t be indifferent to this. I know it’s difficult to criticize the administration in a time of war. But this is about our future, about protecting the very essence of our democracy freedom of speech. Our leaders shouldn’t be afraid to speak the truth, even if it is temporarily unpopular.
As Dr. King said, “Truth crushed to the earth will rise again.” Truth works. Truth has its own force. Truth eventually wins out.
 "Is Ashcroft Looking Over Your Shoulder?", CauseNET for August 18, 2003. For more information: http://www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=12126&c=207.
 "The Perils of Protest", Notebook, Time Magazine, April 14, 2003.
 "Sunbeams", The Sun, May 2003.
 "Sunbeams", The Sun, April 2003.
 "10 Questions for Dennis Miller", Time Magazine, 22 December 2003.
 Richard Corliss, "Baseball Takes a Hit", Time Magazine, 15 March 2004.
 Notebook, Time Magazine, Spring 2004.
 James Bovard, "Quarantining Dissent; How the Secret Service protects Bush from Free Speech, http://www.arabialink.com/Archive/GWPersp/GWP2004/GWP_2004_05_08.htm
 Jim Hightower, "Bush Zones Go National", http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20040816&s=hightower.
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