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Rep. Mike Hubbard Vs. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press

I sent a letter to the editor of the Opelika-Auburn News the other day, after reading this little piece about recent efforts by Mike Hubbard[1] to intimidate his critics with legal threats. As far as I know the letter hasn’t appeared in the paper, and my guess is that it’s not likely to, since the opinion page is currently flooded with letters for and against an upcoming city property tax referendum.[2] So, I reprint it here. Of course, if the accusations being made against Hubbard are false, then I think it’s a bad thing for people to tell lies or spread misinformation. But his efforts to enforce his preferred version of events, by means of legal force, is a loathsome attempt at censorship. It is no less preposterous, and even more contemptible, than if he went around challenging his critics to duels.[3]

To the Editor:

I was disappointed to read that Rep. Mike Hubbard has decided to respond to his critics with intimidation and legal threats (“Hubbard enlists attorney to investigate libelous claims,” Sep. 11). Apparently, he is angry about bloggers who made “negative comments” about him on the Internet, so now “he has hired an attorney to stop” the authors, by tracking them down and threatening a libel lawsuit.

Hubbard says that he has done this because “certain individuals” are trying to damage his good name. But a good reputation is not the private property of Rep. Mike Hubbard. His reputation just is the sum total of other people’s opinions about him; and other people’s opinions of Mike Hubbard belong to the people who have them – not to Mr. Hubbard. If people change their mind about Hubbard after reading about him on blogs, then the comments they read may be true or false, justified or unfounded, honest or malicious. But whatever the negative comments are, they are not “destroying” anything that Hubbard has a right to exclusively control.

You might say, “But the comments were libelous; he has legal rights.” That’s what the law says, but the law is wrong: libel actions are shameful and chilling assaults on the freedom of speech and the press.

If the comments are true, Hubbard has no right to complain about them. If the comments are false, Hubbard – a well-connected politician, and a well-positioned local media owner – has plenty of outlets for responding to the accusations, and more than enough opportunities to peacefully persuade us he’s in the right. Either way, sending a lawyer to intimidate and silence critics is an abuse of power, and the act of a bully – and a desperate one at that. Hubbard ought to be ashamed of himself.

Charles W. Johnson
Auburn, Ala.

  1. [1]A local media mogul, GOP honcho, currently Speaker of the Alabama state House of Representatives, and the man who preposterously claims to represent me in Alabama’s state government.
  2. [2]I’m agin’ it, because I’m against all tax laws, but I won’t be voting agin’ it next week, because I am not registered to vote.
  3. [3]Challenging them to duels would be less contemptible because he would at least be taking the risks of his violent outbursts on his own person, rather than throwing his wealth and power around in a court-room against bloggers much less able to defend themselves. It would also actually be much less dangerous and tyrannical — since his chosen victims would always be free to refuse him.

Reformist overtures

Saturday I got a letter from the Las Vegas Area Democratic Majority Drive, an attempt by the Democratic Congressional leadership–which already has a majority but has been doing nothing or worse with it–to drum up money for an even bigger do-nothing majority through the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Here’s the letter I got:

From the Las Vegas Area Democratic Majority Drive

Dear Mr. Johnson,

As 2007 comes to a close, the Democratic Party is working night and day to overcome President Bush’s misguided policies and stubborn resistance to our ideals and policies, but if we keep working together and keep fighting, we can continue to make progress, taking America in a New Direction.

That’s why I’m asking you to join other leading Democrats in the Las Vegas area in supporting the Democratic Majority Drive with a generous gift of $15, $25, $35, $50 or more today.

In the face of fierce resistance from President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress, the Democratic Majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has already strengthened House ethics rules and passed landmark legislation–repealing billions in oil industry tax breaks … lowering student loan interest rates … reducing prescription costs for people on Medicare … funding stem-cell research … raising the minimum wage … and holding the Bush Administration accountable for its disastrous policies on the war in Iraq.

But despite public support for these initiatives, President Bush is vetoing key parts of our agenda for change. Meanwhile, the Republicans are already targeting newly elected House Democrats — many of whom won in Republican-leaning districts — hoping to regain their stranglehold on the House in 2008. That’s why your support now is so vital.

As the official campaign arm of Democrats in the House, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is our nation’s only political committee dedicated to strengthening our Democratic Majority in the House–by standing with Democratic lawmakers targeted by the GOP … recruiting strong challengers to take on vulnerable Republican incumbents … providing our candidates with financial and strategic assistance … and running political ads in their districts.

With your support today, we will be able to stay on the offense to increase our Democratic Majority and help elect a Democratic president in 2008. Your help will be critical to providing the resources needed to mobilize Democratic field activists early and turn out voters in key districts.

Mr. Johnson, the elections of 2006 were the first critical steps toward a Democratic victory that strengthens and expands our Majority in Congress and takes back the White House. Now I ask you to help finish the job and win an even bigger victory in 2008–by joining other Democratic leaders in the Las Vegas area in supporting the Democratic Majority Drive.

Thank You,

Rep Chris Van Hollen
DCCC Chairman

I marked the enclosed contribution form $0.00 and referred them to this enclosed letter, which I mailed them today, postage courteously paid by the D.C.C.C.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen
Chair, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
P.O. Box 96039
Washington, DC 20077-7243

Dear Rep. Van Hollen:

Yesterday I received a direct mail solicitation from you as part of the Las Vegas Area Democratic Majority Drive, asking me to donate money to the D.C.C.C. I am writing to inform you that, under the present conditions, I cannot donate in good conscience, and I have joined a Democratic Donor Strike against both the D.C.C.C. and the D.S.C.C. (http://www.democrats.com/donor-strike-2007).

While I have contributed both votes and campaign donations to Democratic candidates in the past, I have been deeply disappointed by the refusal of Democratic leadership and the Democratic-controlled Congress to live up to the promises that brought them into the majority in the 2006 elections. In your fund-raising letter, you write that the Democratic Party is working night and day to overcome President Bush’s misguided policies, and claim that the Congressional Democrats have already been holding the Bush Administration accountable for its disastrous policies on the war in Iraq. But under the control of Democrat Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives and Democrat Harry Reid in the Senate, the Democratic Congressional leadership has repeatedly shown, by its actions, that either it agrees with the Bush administration’s misguided policies, or else will do nothing to check them. For example, every penny of funding for the catastrophic war on Iraq must be approved by the Democratic Congress, and if you refuse to continue funding the war, President Bush has no power to continue it. Yet the catastrophic war in Iraq rages on because Congressional Democrats have supported Bush’s demands for unconditional and unlimited emergency funding to continue this appalling war over and over again. They have faced no fierce resistance from President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress, because they continue to capitulate to every demand of Bush and the Republican war hawks. That is not even a failure; it is complicity.

In light of the Democratic leadership’s actions, I will not support, or donate money to, either the D.C.C.C. or the D.S.C.C., under any conditions, unless and until the Democratic-controlled Congress stands up to the Bush administration and accomplishes these four goals:

  1. Restricting any new Iraq funds to a safe and immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops—not another penny for occupation or the Bush-Maliki enduring security guarantees;

  2. Passing legislation explicitly prohibiting any use of funds to plan or execute a pre-emptive attack on Iran, and repealing the post-9/11 Authorization of Use of Military Force that Bush and Cheney believe authorizes them to attack Iran or any other country they please, as well as to wiretap all our calls and emails without warrants;

  3. Fully restoring key civil liberties by strictly outlawing warrantless wiretapping and torture, closing Guantanamo, and restoring habeas corpus;

  4. Completing the investigation of White House crimes by using inherent contempt to compel testimony by current and former White House officials

If my help will be critical, as you claim in your letter, then I urge you and your fellow Democrats in Congress to make that help possible by demonstrating your commitment to these four goals. And I mean demonstrating your commitment by deeds, not by words. You can begin immediately by refusing to allow Congressional Republicans to attach tens billions of dollars in unconditional funding for the war on Iraq to the 2008 defense budget. I urge you to do so.

Sincerely, etc.

No union with war-mongers, spiritually or politically.

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of [Babylon], my people, that ye not be partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

— Revelation (KJV), 18:4

Letter to a privacy guy

I don’t normally spend a lot of time writing letters to strange men in Congress, aside from authorizing the occasional form e-mail to be sent on my behalf. But I made an exception yesterday. Here is the letter that I sent to Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) in light of his recent appearance in the pages of Reason. Mainly because the argument in question is one of my pet peeves.

Rep. John Campbell
1728 Longworth Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Sir:

I notice that in a recent interview with Reason (“This Is John Campbell Speaking,” December 2007, pp. 16-18), you defended government surveillance of citizens’ telephone calls by saying:

I’m very much a privacy guy …. It’s something I feel very strongly about. But there’s something I feel even more strongly about: I don’t want to be blown up. I am willing to give them some limited access to my phone records because of this war on terror.

But, sir, the question was not about whether you, personally, are willing to turn over your own phone records for the government to sniff around in. If your your fear of physical danger is so strong that it overcomes your desire for basic privacy, then I’d be the first to say that you should feel free to give the government as much access to your own phone records as you like. But I certainly object if you intend to use your willingness to sacrifice privacy for protection as an excuse for having the government force me to turn over my records. If I have different ideas from you about the importance of privacy, then what have your own personal preferences got to do with how my records should be treated?

Just where do you get off, sir, proposing government policies to enforce your own cowardice on the rest of us in the country, whether or not we share your fear of physical danger, and whether or not we are as willing as you are to submit to protective monitoring?

Sincerely,
etc.

Twelve questions for Debbie Schluessel on Alaistair Norcross

The Great Conservative Cultural Revolution is a great revolution that touches people to their very souls and constitutes a new stage in the development of the conservative revolution in our country, a deeper and more extensive stage. At present, our objective is to criticize and repudiate the reactionary far-left academic authorities and the ideology of the far-left and all other exploiting classes, and to transform education, literature and art, and all other parts of the superstructure that do not correspond to the Republican electoral base, so as to facilitate the consolidation and development of the conservative system.

And in her heroic quest to smash the old world, Great American Debbie Schluessel has uncovered another enemy of the people lurking in the halls of academe. Behold the running-dog of the far left and the corrupter of our youth, Dr. Alaistair Norcross, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Rice University!

Now, far be it from me to stand between the Red State Guards and their patriotic duty of shaming dissenting professors for their incorrect thoughts. Still, Alaistair Norcross happens to be an acquaintence of mine, so I have some personal interest in the matter. And while I find his visceral loathing for deontological ethics unwholesome, his utilitarianism profoundly mistaken, and his criticism of virtue ethics barking mad, I can’t say I recognize anything of substance about his views, or his arguments for those views, or his personality, or his teaching, or his conduct, in this column. So I have a few questions for Ms. Schluessel, since I have also been unable to find any discussion of the content of Dr. Norcross’s essays, or of the content of his courses, or his methods of teaching them, or any indication of having so much as read anything he’s written or talked with someone who has taken a course from him. I’ve posted these questions directly to the comments section on her weblog, but who knows what the moderation system will make of them? Thus, you can also find them here.

Ms. Schluessel, have you:

  1. Taken one of Dr. Norcross’s classes?

  2. Spoken with anyone who has taken one of Dr. Norcross’s classes?

  3. Spoken with Dr. Norcross about his views on animal ethics?

  4. Read “The Animal Ethics Reader”?

  5. Read the “Killing and Letting Die” anthology that he (co-)edited?

  6. Made any effort to discover (by conversation or by reading) how, as a co-editor of an anthology on the topic, his views relate to those of the contributors to the anthology?

  7. Heard the presentation or read the paper on “Torturing Puppies, etc.”?

  8. Read his comments in response to somebody else’s paper on “Disability, Marxism, and Ecofeminism”?

  9. Noticed from the CV that those are in fact assigned comments on somebody else’s paper for a conference, rather than a topic Norcross wrote on himself?

  10. Taken Dr. Norcross’s class on the Simpsons and Philosophy, or talked with anyone who has taken it, or talked with Dr. Norcross about it, or read the book by the same title, or, for that matter, heard of the concept of “humor”?

  11. Noticed that the PhotoShop of his head onto President Bush’s body is actually a joke about Kantian ethical theory, not about the war in Iraq?

  12. In general, done absolutely anything to discover what Dr. Norcross’s views are, or what his arguments for those views are, or what his courses are like, or what he’s like as a person, other than skimming very quickly over his faculty website and speculating on the titles of papers you found in his CV?

I ask, because if you have done any of these things you offer no evidence of it anywhere in your column. But if you haven’t done any of these things, then you simply have no idea what you are talking about when you speculate on what his courses are like, what he demands of students, what he’s like as a person, what he believes, or what sorts of arguments he gives to defend those beliefs. But if you don’t know what you are talking about, then why are you talking about it?

Aid and Comfort

Thanks to our War President, equating political dissent with an act of treason has become something of a national pastime in Republistan. Tom Tomorrow has already commented on this phenomenon in connection with televised sociopath Ann Coulter, but while Coulter is certainly a dangerous lunatic there is at least this one point in her favor: a significant part of her book is devoted to documenting what she takes to be overt acts of war, and material assistance to the enemies of the United States (especially the Soviet Union). Of course, her case is based mainly on distortions, fabrications, and nonsense; but it still puts her a step above the foot-soldiers of tyranny who simply drag out the language of “aid and comfort to the enemy” explicitly and directly on the basis of nothing more than peaceful dissent from the President’s war policy.

Consider, for example, a fellow named Dan Kuykendall, who (during my time in the Auburn Peace Project) decided that it would be best to notify the Opelika-Auburn News that rallies opposing the war on Iraq give aid and comfort to the enemy, and mused that Isn’t the definition of treason giving aid and comfort to the enemy? Since then, the rhetorical tactics haven’t changed much; consider this contribution to Blockheads for Bush, commenting on Ted Kennedy’s recent missives against Mr. Bush’s war:

Let us be clear about this – there are legitimate criticisms to be made about the liberation of Iraq; about whether or not we should have gone in, and about the manner in which we went in, and about how we have performed since we went in; there are, however, no legitimate criticisms to be raised about the reason we went in, nor can there be any legitimate point for an American to make other than that we should be doing more to win this fight. To criticise the reasons we went in and/or to do anything which indicates an unwillingness to see this thing through to final victory is the statement of a fool, or a traitor. No two ways about it.

We’ve given the left a pass long enough – its [sic] time for those who are of leftwing opinion to make their final call: which side of the river are you on? If you’re on America’s side, then you want total and overwhelming US victory – and just to really spell it out; this means that our enemies are dead or begging for mercy. I challenge you – choose, and let you be known for what you are by what you choose – patriot, or traitor.

(Subsequent comments make it clear that most of the Bush League takes the traitor horn of the dilemma. Some offer the charitable suggestion that Ted Kennedy might be both stupid, and a traitor.)

I sent a letter to the editor of the Opelika-Auburn News in reply to Mr. Kuykendall back in April 2003; since the underlying rhetoric hasn’t changed any in the ensuing year, the reply was a useful template for my comment on the BfB article:

Treason is a federal crime, defined in Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution, which says Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. Apparently at least some of the commentators on this weblog have read the passage, as they refer to the aid and comfort language. Unfortunately, it seems that they have also failed to read Amendment I, which reads Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The Founders did their best to make very sure that the Constitution prevented the government from using charges of Treason to suppress peaceful dissent. That is why the language of the article clearly states that the law of treason to be invoked only for overt acts with the intent to wage war on the United States, or to provide concrete, material assistance to those who do.

If anyone has evidence that Ted Kennedy has committed such a serious federal crime, they should contact the FBI field office in Boston at (617) 742-5533. Otherwise, baseless insinuations against Mr. Kennedy, for nothing more than disagreeing with George W. Bush’s foreign policy, amounts to little more than a shameful proposal for tyranny. You have every right to agree or disagree with Mr. Kennedy’s policy; you have no right to make such scurrilous attacks against fellow citizens on the basis of mere political disagreement.

Posted by: Rad Geek at April 10, 2004 11:51 AM

The comment has been posted directly on the Blockheads for Bush article; we’ll see how long it remains in their echo chamber as it was posted.

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