Posts filed under Open Letters, Op-Eds, and LTEs

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.

Letter to the Editor of the Opelika-Auburn News, October 10, 2011

Here’s a recent letter I wrote to the OA News in reply to the unpleasant Good Morning I got a couple weeks ago from their Oct. 10, 2011 isssue. When I picked up the morning paper, I was greeted with the following big-bold-black-letter headline on the top story:

ILLEGALS FEAR KIDS WILL BE STRANDED.

Well, that’s a fine how-do-you-do. The headline, racist-ass slur and all, was actually what the OA News chose to introduce this really heartbreaking AP story, which is actually a very important story about real human beings and their families, not bullshit ethno-legal statuses — and the human suffering that the state government’s recent apartheid bill[1] is causing — the kind of suffering that dehumanizing and authoritarian slurs like Illegals serves systematically to distract from and obliterate. Anyway, I would have put this up sooner, but publishing schedules at the Opelika-Auburn News Opinion/Letters page seem to have been a bit chaotic over the past few weeks; however, my guess is that at this point they are not likely to include the letter. They did include another letter on the same topic.

Charles Johnson
10 October 2011

Editor, Opelika-Auburn News:

I read the top story in Monday’s OA News (“Illegals fear kids will be stranded,” 10/10/2011) with mixed feelings. I’m glad you chose to highlight this important, heart-breaking issue. No child should be separated from her parents over a piece of government paper, and no parent should have to live with the fear that any traffic stop or chance encounter with police could separate them from their children. Political borders are not worth tearing apart families or throwing children into terrifying emergencies. When Scott Beason says “such concerns weren’t raised when legislators were considering the bill,” I’m sure he is telling the truth – I don’t doubt he never stopped to ask how his sadistic “Papers, Please” law might affect undocumented families, or their children. And I don’t doubt his colleagues in the state-house didn’t think to mention it to him. But their short-sightedness is a shame on them. It’s not a reason to act as if the problem does not exist.

However, while I think this is an vital issue for the OA News to discuss, I was saddened, and embarrassed, to see the top headline in my hometown paper refer to human beings with the dehumanizing and racially-charged slur “Illegals.” Actions may be legal or illegal, but people are not. Call them immigrants, undocumented families, parents without papers, our coworkers and neighbors. But they are not “illegals.” The i-word reduces human beings to their political status, and silences the real issues in the debate – whether existing immigration laws are even remotely fair or just in the first place. The i-word is offensive and divisive, and doesn’t belong in a newspaper headline any more than the n-word or any other ethnic slur. No human being is illegal.

Sincerely,
Charles W. Johnson
Auburn, Ala.

I wasn’t able to get it in the original draft of the letter — because of a 300-word limit — but now that I’m under no such constraints of length, I will also add that I’d hoped to close off the letter with a rhetorical question, wondering whether the OA News would publish a story with a headline describing the SNCC students as Illegal Customers or Harriet Tubman as an Illegal Freedwoman.

If you’re interested in asking them the same, or letting them know how you feel about racist-ass slurs in headlines, you can get in touch with the editor at:

Letters to the Editor
Opelika-Auburn News
P.O. Drawer 2208
Opelika, AL 36803

Or by e-mail to the Op-Ed page editor at jmcadory@oanow.com.[2]

See also.

  1. [1] Cf. GT 2007-12-17: International Apartheid in Roswell
  2. [2] Please keep in mind that the editor reading these letters is the op-ed page editor, not — as far as I know — the person who chose the front-page headline.

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,
Charles W. Johnson
Las Vegas, NV

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,
Charles W. Johnson

Eleven 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?