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Is there anything that some people won’t say needs to be done in the name of fighting terrorism?

Several months ago, I wrote about how, under a bill proposed last November (HR 1955, passed by the House but not yet by the Senate) called the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, naming a teddy bear Muhammed could be seen as an act leading to radicalization and therefore unlawful.

Sounds far-fetched? Yeah, maybe. But…

Today’s editorial in the New York Times decries US Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut demands that YouTube take down more videos, because he believes fosters terrorism, than they’ve already removed at his request.  (I won’t get into how YouTube doesn’t take down girl fight videos; wonder why Lieberman isn’t getting behind that.)

Here’s the NYT’s argument:

Earlier this month, the Senate homeland security committee, which is led by Mr. Lieberman, issued a report titled “Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat.” The report identified the Internet as “one of the primary drivers” of the terrorist threat to the United States.

All of this comes against the backdrop of a troubling Congressional antiterrorism bill that also focuses on the Internet. The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, which passed the House last year by a 404-to-6 vote, would establish a commission to study the terrorist threat and propose legislation. The bill, which the Senate has not acted on, has a finding that the Internet promotes radicalization and terrorism.

Although the report by the homeland security committee stopped short of making recommendations for reining in online speech, it did ask “what, if any, new laws” were needed. The answer is that no new laws are needed — or justifiable — any more than it would be tolerable to enact laws restricting speech over the telephone, in a newspaper or a book, on a street corner, or in a church, mosque or synagogue.

While it is fortunate that Mr. Lieberman does not have the power to tell YouTube that it must remove videos, it is profoundly disturbing that an influential senator would even consider telling a media company to shut down constitutionally protected speech. The American Civil Liberties Union has warned that the “Homegrown Terrorism” bill and related efforts “could be a precursor to proposals to censor and regulate speech on the Internet.”

Not only do these efforts contradict fundamental American values, it is not clear if they would help fight terrorism. Even if YouTube pulled down every video Mr. Lieberman did not like, radical groups could post the same videos on their own Web sites. Trying to restrain the Internet is a game of “whack-a-mole” that cannot be won, says John Morris of the Center for Democracy and Technology. Having the videos on YouTube may even be a good thing, because it makes it easier for law enforcement officials, the media and the public to monitor the groups and their messages.

Terrorism is a real concern. All Americans know that. They also know that if we give up our fundamental rights, the terrorists win. If people use speech to engage in criminal acts, they should be prosecuted. Cutting off free speech is never the right answer. [emphasis added]

Sounds like the advice Jeff Hess of Have Coffee Will Write would give and does give. Wisely.

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 8:08 pm May 25th, 2008 in Blogging, Civil Rights, Congress, Crime, Foreign Affairs, Government, Media, Politics, Social Issues | 5 Comments 

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An effort is underway, via the State Treasurer’s office, to elicit feedback on proposed rules that will help protect consumers.  Here’s the info:


New rules are being proposed to protect consumers against unfair practices by credit card companies. Join State Treasurer Richard Cordray in support of these new protections for Ohioans. The deadline is August 4th.

Proposed changes include ending:

  • unfair time constraints to make payments
  • unfair allocation of payments among balances with different interest rates
  • unfair application of increased APR to outstanding balances
  • unfair balance computation
  • unfair fees for exceeding the credit limit solely because of a hold placed on an account
  • unfair fees for issuance or availability of credit deceptive offers of credit.

Click here to support the changes and submit your comments. You can also help spread the word by sending this to a friend!

If you have experience with the need for these rules, please visit this page to provide your feedback.  I’m told that hundreds of comments came into the office within hours of sending out an alert about the comment procedure.

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 6:44 pm May 25th, 2008 in Politics | Comments Off 

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Pretty much every article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine coincides with something in your life? I don’t know, but I wrote them to say the same thing (I’ve actually had three or so letters to the editor of the magazine published over the years – on intelligent design, gifted education and I don’t recall what else):

The good news: I’m finding that more and more material in each issue of the magazine reflects something in my life.  I don’t know if that says more about me or your magazine, but there it is.  So, my comments:

1. Reading the interview with David Iglesias made me realize that for all my apathy, as a Democrat, regarding Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, as a voter, he is in a much worse spot.

2. I read about Thinspiration videos earlier this week online at [I can't find where I read about it!] and still, I am speechless.

3. I bought a FLip camera after having been credentialed to cover the Democratic primary debate in Cleveland.  I took my old Sony Cybershot and my MacBook laptop with me and wasted five hours trying to download video, convert it and then upload it to  I missed several opportunities not only to meet people but observe the debate.  And I promised myself that I’d buy the FLip before the Ohio primary.  I did and it was exactly what I needed.  I use it constantly now and my kids love it as a rainy day activity.  You can see how I use it here.

4. Finally, about all the pages you allowed to be used by Emily Gould: I would like to beg you to please, please, PLEASE cover some other kinds of bloggers that make up the more than 110 million tracked by Technorati.  Not the mommy bloggers.  Not the milbloggers.  Not the media-hound or sex columnist or racist bloggers.  Not the top bloggers like the Huffington Post, Daily Kos or Firedoglake.  Not the blogs connected to the news outlets.

But how about the blogs in each community that cover what the newspapers don’t have room for or for other editorial reasons decide not to cover?  How about the blogs that are covering school council meetings and engaging literally hundreds and thousands of residents in a dialogue about their communities and their governments?

These are not “placeblogs” that help you get a sense of a particular town. Rather, they are the nucleus of a new town center, a new source of community within a community.  And the people behind them often make no money from their endeavors but they continue to do what they do with enormous support, and satisfaction.

I would be happy to point you in the direction of what I call Hunter-Gatherer blogs if you decide to follow-up on this idea.

Thank you.

I left out the part about how I live in the Cleveland area and couldn’t stop reading the riveting story about Sgt. Shuvron Phillips who was treated for some time at the Cleveland VA.

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 6:11 pm May 25th, 2008 in Blogging, Media, Writing | 3 Comments 

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Mirabile Dictu posted this entry with a snippet from this article, “The Stupidity of Dignity,” by Harvard Professor Stephen Pinker in The New Republic that exposes a very disturbing likelihood about what has been directing the Bush Administration’s policies related to medical practice.

This spring, the President’s Council on Bioethics released a 555-page report, titled Human Dignity and Bioethics. The Council, created in 2001 by George W. Bush, is a panel of scholars charged with advising the president and exploring policy issues related to the ethics of biomedical innovation, including drugs that would enhance cognition, genetic manipulation of animals or humans, therapies that could extend the lifespan, and embryonic stem cells and so-called “therapeutic cloning” that could furnish replacements for diseased tissue and organs. Advances like these, if translated into freely undertaken treatments, could make millions of people better off and no one worse off. So what’s not to like? The advances do not raise the traditional concerns of bioethics, which focuses on potential harm and coercion of patients or research subjects. What, then, are the ethical concerns that call for a presidential council?

This volume of 28 essays and commentaries by Council members and invited contributors is their deliverable, addressed directly to President Bush. The report does not, the editors admit, settle the question of what dignity is or how it should guide our policies. It does, however, reveal a great deal about the approach to bioethics represented by the Council. And what it reveals should alarm anyone concerned with American biomedicine and its promise to improve human welfare. For this government-sponsored bioethics does not want medical practice to maximize health and flourishing; it considers that quest to be a bad thing, not a good thing.

Some links:

President’s Council on Bioethics

The report: Human Dignity and Bioethics:Essays Commissioned by the President’s Council on Bioethics

Sourcewatch has a good profile with council member names etc.

From Pinker’s conclusion:

A major sin of theocon bioethics is exactly the one that it sees in biomedical research: overweening hubris. In every age, prophets foresee dystopias that never materialize, while failing to anticipate the real revolutions. Had there been a President’s Council on Cyberethics in the 1960s, no doubt it would have decried the threat of the Internet, since it would inexorably lead to 1984, or to computers “taking over” like HAL in 2001. Conservative bioethicists presume to soothsay the outcome of the quintessentially unpredictable endeavor called scientific research. And they would stage-manage the kinds of social change that, in a free society, only emerge as hundreds of millions of people weigh the costs and benefits of new developments for themselves, adjusting their mores and dealing with specific harms as they arise, as they did with in vitro fertilization and the Internet.

Worst of all, theocon bioethics flaunts a callousness toward the billions of non-geriatric people, born and unborn, whose lives or health could be saved by biomedical advances. Even if progress were delayed a mere decade by moratoria, red tape, and funding taboos (to say nothing of the threat of criminal prosecution), millions of people with degenerative diseases and failing organs would needlessly suffer and die. And that would be the biggest affront to human dignity of all.

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 4:33 pm May 25th, 2008 in Politics | 7 Comments 

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I just voted and you can too.  Just go here. He’s in the lid by a slim margin – help this really unique and worthy Democratic candidate for Ohio’s 14th congressional district

Here’s the latest from his campaign:

Because of such an amazing outpouring of support, Bill is currently hanging on to a slim lead in the Memorial Day contest for veterans running for Congress. With the contest ending at the end of the day Sunday, this is your last chance to vote!

If you haven’t already, please take 30 seconds right now and go to Daily Kos here to show your support for Bill.

I’m happy to report that today Bill successfully completed the 5.25-mile Blossom Time run just two months removed from heart surgery. But more importantly he marched in the parade, not just as a Vietnam veteran but as the proud father of an Iraqi warrior. I know that Bill considers himself blessed to have his son Shawn home safe and sound. He says all the time that they only thing a parent can ask for when his son or daughter is overseas is that they come home safe.

Isn’t it time we had a congressman who knows firsthand what these sacrifices feel like? A congressman who will cast each and every vote with these families in mind?

Vote here for Bill before the end of the day!

Good luck, Bill and congrats on finishing the race. He even left a couple of comments at Daily Kos.

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 3:16 pm May 25th, 2008 in Bill O'Neill, Blogging, Campaigning, Congress, Ohio, Politics, Voting | Comments Off 

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I hate not liking either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton enough to consider myself a supporter. I write about it pretty regularly these days.  But it’s my fault – I’ve learned from this election cycle that I should have worked my butt off trying to get whomever I did want to be the nominee further along in the race.  In this case, it would have been either Joe Biden, Chris Dodd or Bill Richardson.  But I didn’t, and I will remember to act differently in 2011-2012.

However, after reading this New York Times Magazine interview with David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney who was hired and then fired by the Bush Administration because New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici sought to have Iglesias accelerate the indictment of Democrats and Iglesias wouldn’t go along, I’m thinking that there are probably a whole lot of American voters who have much more reason to whine than me.

Q: In 2001, you were tapped by President Bush for your dream job — U.S. attorney for New Mexico — only to end up as one of the eight federal prosecutors whose firing five years later set off an outcry. With your book “In Justice” about to come out, have you heard anything from President Bush? No, not even a little note of thanks. If somebody served honorably, you at least have your staff member send a form letter or something: thanks for your service.

Are you still a Republican? Yes, a disillusioned Republican. I can’t blame the Democrats for this mess. It was fellow conservatives, people who thought and acted and dressed like me, who threw away their moral compass.

What makes all of this so startling is that you’re practically a poster boy for a new kind of Karl Rove-style Republican. I’m a military veteran, I’m Hispanic and I’m an evangelical Christian. Those are three enormous pillars of the Republican base.

As a Christian, do you forgive your political tormentors for their role in all of this? Yes. Karl Rove, Domenici, Heather Wilson. When I’m praying in the morning, if I feel bad vibes for anybody, I’ll say I forgive that person. It is important not to let hate or bitterness take root in your heart.

Do you think Karl Rove mentions you in his prayers? My understanding is that he is agnostic. I didn’t find that out until a couple of months ago. The irony is you have this agnostic using the religious beliefs of evangelical Christians for political purposes.

Seriously.  If I were Mr. Iglesias, I would be so depressed and angry.  Read the whole thing.

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By Jill Miller Zimon at 11:19 am May 25th, 2008 in Courts, George Bush, Government, Law, Politics, Religion, Scandal, Voting | 4 Comments