Friday, April 15, 2011

Post No. 163: Monkey See; Monkey Do


© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Not long ago, a friend of the Institute sent us this story from a major news source:

Beverly Hills Police officers responded last evening to a collision involving a single vehicle at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. The driver and passenger were killed. As police examined the wreckage, a little monkey came out of the brush and hopped around the crashed car.

One of the officers looked at the monkey and said, "I wish you could talk."

The monkey looked up at the officer and nodded and raised his head up and down.

"You can understand what I'm saying?" asked the officer.

Again, the monkey picked his head up and down.

"Well, did you see this?"

"Yes," motioned the monkey.

"What happened?" asked the Officer.

The monkey made a gesture as if he had a can in his hand and turned it up by his mouth.

"They were drinking?" asked the officer.

The monkey’s head movements indicated another "Yes."

"What else?" said the Officer. The monkey pinched his fingers together and held them to his mouth.

"They were smoking marijuana?"

The monkey shook his head again indicating, "Yes."

"What else?"

The monkey then made a kissing motion.

"They were kissing, too?" asked the astounded officer.

The monkey again nodded affirmatively.

"Now wait, you witnessed your owners drinking, smoking, and kissing before they wrecked?"

The monkey shook his head vigorously providing another "Yes" response.

"And what were you doing all of this time?"

"Driving," motioned the monkey.

This unfortunate incident reminded us of the potential risks associated with monkeys seeing other monkeys doing dangerous things.

While Common Sense might be relatively simplistic (and capable of being appreciated by monkeys), and frequently merges with Personal Responsibility, there are times when Personal Responsibility is a far more complicated and nuanced concept, depending on the environment and the monkeys involved.

In prior posts, we spoke of the need on the part of some individuals to be right, rather than accurate. Today we shift from being right to having rights.

There’s a “rights” story out there that’s been gnawing on our peanuts for the past couple of weeks. And while many had much to say about the potential threat in the months leading up to the story, once the threat was actually consummated, there were very few American political leaders who had much to say.

Perhaps it received so little attention in the media due to other more pressing stories, such as the Japanese nuclear radiation risk, the potential shutdown of the U.S. government, and our involvement in Libya. Or maybe most regular citizens just didn’t care once the act occurred.

We’re talking about Terry Jones, the Pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, who, in 2010, threatened to burn Korans to mark the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11.

When he initially made the threat, virtually everyone came out of the woodwork, out of fear that the ensuing fire would engulf their abodes, or real estate projects in which they had invested. But after faking us out with a song and dance alongside a organ grinder and suggesting that he had realized the folly of his ways, on March 21, 2011, the Good Reverend conducted a mock trial (consisting primarily of members of his congregation as jurors), after which he went through with the burning.

Unfortunately, the burning of the books may have been a factor in the attack shortly thereafter on a United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, which left at least 30 people dead, and as many as 150 injured, following 5 days of rioting.

No one will ever be able to prove, with any degree of certainty, whether the exercise of the Good Reverend’s right to express his views was a contributing factor to the bloodshed. But we were surprised at the paucity of coverage of the event by the media, and by how little our political leadership in this country had to say about the burning, and its possible ramifications.

Particularly those in American society who generally argue so forcefully against burning anything which they value.

(Although we do not have any empirical evidence to support this, our guess is that Kobe Bryant received more press accusing a pro basketball referee of being related to Liberace.)

Maybe we were all afraid that some other monkeys out there might repeat the show, and that others might try to imitate the original.

Or perhaps it made some of us actually realize that the exercise of our individual rights might not always be the most responsible thing to do, depending on the environment and the parties (or monkeys) involved.

103 comments:

  1. A good commentary on a very sad event. The delicate balance between "free speech" and incitement to riot is, indeed, a thin line. When crossed it generally has devastating effects and folks wonder why. Your questioning of the media response is right on, but then why are we surprised in this age of media for profit rather than for shedding light in the darkness.

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  2. 'Spector and Dan,

    I have a different perspective on this, as usual.

    If the Constitutionality (or at least the "responsibility quotient") of every action and/or communication is to be judged by its potential resultant fallout, we are in heap big doo-doo.

    Hollywood offers some good examples. I recall a Robin Williams movie from about 15 years ago which showed young college punks setting homeless guys on fire for kicks. You know what happened soon after -- and of course the little pyromaniac psycho cited the movie's influence when caught and questioned.

    Then there is the more recent issue of forbidding any gratuitous depiction of smoking in motion pictures -- obviously, the kiddies might decide to "copycat" it!

    So where does it stop? No depictions of drinking alcohol? No images of overeating? Of reckless driving? How about political activism, if it is adjudged to "send the wrong kind of message"?

    Once you start the snowball rolling downhill, where does it end? "I burned the business down just because I saw a story about it on the TV news!” says the arsonist -- so the media is blamed. Do you see where I am going with this? Eventually, it will be criminal to do or say anything.

    On second thought, I hold the media to be more responsible for the "fallout" from the Florida preacher's actions than I do the pastor himself. Had they not provided round-the-clock “pre-game” coverage of the incident to show how utterly that particular act shocked and offended their multicultural sensibilities, it is unlikely that the terrorists would have used it as an excuse to do to the UN mission what they most enjoy doing anyway – killing westerners along with other infidels. To ignore a constitutionally protected action (and its attendant free speech of future intent) is to effectively nullify its impact.

    Now: what would you have us do about THAT media “problem” . . ?

    The Independent Cuss

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  3. I think Karzai, the leader of Afghanistan may have been a conduit for the violence also, because he made a speech and told the Afghan people about this Koran burning preacher from America. Then that's when all hell seemed to break loose. I'm not on anybody's side, especially the freaky Floridian preacher's. I'm just sayin' if our American "freak show" as George Carlin so aptly named it, and where we Americans get a front row seat and ticket to the freak show never showed up on anybody else's radar screen, or big screen how would they know. Karzai knew what would happen when he told the Afghan audience about our freaky preacher, and it did.

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  4. I was wondering how burning books is a form of free speech, or are the dangerous lies printed in the koran, bible, and so on 'speech' worthy of freedom.

    It seems common sense to me that once speech is amplified beyond the capability of individuals and small goups it becomes something else that should be judged on its merits, and not allowed freedom in principle.

    The press does not indulge in 'speech' when it promotes some political ideas while supressing others.

    The film industry helped promote tobacco as a 'cool' activity long before this product caused millions of painful deaths. Was that not wrong. Now the same industry has helped reduce the acceptability of the habit. Good for them I say.

    Cuss makes good points above, but asking 'where does it stop?' is total nonsense. It stops whenever good people think so, case by case. NOT by always trying to find neat PRINCIPLES to fit examples into.

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  5. Why must blame be assigned to anyone other than the perpetrators of an act? Regardless of whether you approve of a symbolic book burning, it is protected under our First Amendment, just as flag burning is. Jones was trying to make a political and religious statement. We do not have to agree with his "statement" in order to defend his right to make it.

    To lay blame on Jones would be like blaming Theo van Gogh for his own assassination. Which was done by someone... [Link]

    Or blaming the cartoonist for the riots around the Muslim world over his cartoon depicting Mohammad with a bomb for a turban.

    Life is full of incidents which offend.

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  6. What Douglas said.

    Bob,

    You need to address that question to the ACLU, not to me. But since burning just about any book which uplifts our nation and our western culture is declared to be "protected free speech" thanks to precedent set by that august body of legal beagles, it would seem to infer that burning of the Holy Quran is okey-dokey as well.

    IC

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  7. To those of you who focused on the "rights" of Rev. Jones, and who were concerned about any potential infringement of those rights, before the Logistician headed to Brazil for his sabbatical, he would have had a response - The Doctrine of Unnecessary.

    He claimed that there are many things in life which people are entitled to do but which they choose not to do because there is no necessity to do so.

    He argued that people ought to exercise some self-discipline on occasion, and just keep their mouths shut, even though they might be entitled to speak out or express themselves.

    In some circles, the question might be posed: what did society gain through Jones' particular expression?

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  8. Dan brought up a very important point: the balancing of interests. Balancing is exactly that - not all or nothing.

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  9. I don't think Muslims are as 'free' to burn bibles in public as christians are to burn korans, but i certainly rejoice in this freedom in both cases.

    The contempt both books have for the truth is easily demonstrable, and burning them is a fair response to the insult they both heap on humanity and rationality.

    If muslims are encouraged to take the lives of infidels by their holy book - which they are - have we to protect them from offense as well?

    Perhaps we should. There is no anger or offence in Mathematics, however upset mathematicians get when ideas are proved wrong.

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  10. Independent Cuss wrote:

    "If the Constitutionality (or at least the "responsibility quotient") of every action and/or communication is to be judged by its potential resultant fallout, we are in heap big doo-doo."

    Shouldn't the consequences of ALL of our actions be considered before we act? Does the fact that certain acts may be cloaked in Constitutional garb mean that the resultant consequences are considered to some less extent?

    What say ye about the Logistician's Doctrine of Unnecessary?

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  11. Cheyanne (Shy Anne), thank you for visiting our forum. We look forward to your continued participation. You wrote:

    "I think Karzai, the leader of Afghanistan[,] may have been a conduit for the violence also, because he made a speech and told the Afghan people about this Koran burning preacher from America. Then that's when all hell seemed to break loose."

    There will always be people who will try to manipulate events to advance their goals. They are always in the woodwork. Should that stop us from certain acts or conduct?

    It depends. However, there will always be those type of people around after the precipitating conduct. It is one of the many and varied ramifications associated with the choices we make.

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  12. Corfubob, you wrote:
    If muslims are encouraged to take the lives of infidels by their holy book - which they are - have we to protect them from offense as well?

    I do not understand the question. In this country, Muslims are as protected as any others against offense. They are protected by law from prejudice, have recourse in the courts, and there are societal taboos which are intended to discourage such offense. And they are not permitted to take the lives of anyone just because their book says it's permissable. That applies to everyone, regardless of what their religion is.

    If I misunderstood the question, I would appreciate some clarification.

    Inspector, quite clever.

    I recall that not too long ago MoMA presented a couple of offensive exhibits and those who took offense were reminded of the First Amendment and, to some extent, ridiculed for it. If I recall correctly, one exhibit was a photograph of a crucifix in a jar of urine and the other was a rendition of the Madonna done in elephant dung.

    Were you among those who though the exhibits should not have been put up? I mean, based on your concept of "just because you can does not mean you should." I suspect, knowing you, that you might have found them disturbing but I do not think you would have written a column such as this about it. You did ask a couple of questions that I would like to address:

    Shouldn't the consequences of ALL of our actions be considered before we act? Does the fact that certain acts may be cloaked in Constitutional garb mean that the resultant consequences are considered to some less extent?

    A simple answer is "no." And I do not think that needs elaboration.

    The other question was:

    What say ye about the Logistician's Doctrine of Unnecessary?

    Too simplistic. Who decides what is "unnecessary?" Should we have a Board of Review to judge our actions before we would be permitted to indulge in them?

    Or should we, as we have always done, simply teach manners and courtesy and allow individuals the right to decide on their own?

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  13. Douglas:

    You wrote:

    "Why must blame be assigned to anyone other than the perpetrators of an act? Regardless of whether you approve of a symbolic book burning, it is protected under our First Amendment, just as flag burning is. Jones was trying to make a political and religious statement. We do not have to agree with his "statement" in order to defend his right to make it.

    To lay blame on Jones would be like blaming Theo van Gogh for his own assassination. Which was done by someone... [Link]

    Or blaming the cartoonist for the riots around the Muslim world over his cartoon depicting Mohammad with a bomb for a turban."

    We must apologize for this poorly crafted post. We called ourselves focusing the paucity of media coverage, and the fact that folks anticipated that lives would be lost if the Korans were burned.

    It was not our intent to assess blame. In fact, we called ourselves very carefully avoiding any subjective terms that might imply blame. We also tried to avoid a direct cause and effect analysis.

    In generating the post, it was our hope that people would simply take the time to thoroughly think through the consequences of their actions, whether symbolic, Constitutional, fundamental, or otherwise.

    We're not sure how any clear thinking person could blame Rev. Jones. To us, it has the nature of a specious argument.

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  14. CorfuBob wrote:

    "I don't think Muslims are as 'free' to burn bibles in public as christians are to burn korans, but i certainly rejoice in this freedom in both cases.

    The contempt both books have for the truth is easily demonstrable, and burning them is a fair response to the insult they both heap on humanity and rationality."

    CorfuBob, this response was special. You certainly have a way with words. We hope that you continue to visit us and contribute for years to come.

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  15. CorfuBob wrote:

    "I don't think Muslims are as 'free' to burn bibles in public as christians are to burn korans, but i certainly rejoice in this freedom in both cases."

    Imagine this: A Muslim burning a Koran in a Islamic country. And let's choose one which is relatively secular in nature, as opposed to theocratic.

    The Muslim has decided to express himself through the burning. Where is the danger, and who incurs the risk of negative consequences?

    Douglas: The Doctrine of Unnecessary is a personal doctrine personal to the potential actor. The actor asks him or herself, "Is it really necessary that I do this now and under these circumstances?" Society will judge as it sees fit.

    Arguably, in some instances, if one pursues a particular line of conduct knowing that others might be injured or damaged, then we view them as....

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  16. we view them as....blameworthy! or...commendable! (IC) depending on the circumstances, motives, actual outcomes involved.

    If rev Jones burned sausages at the barbeque i would have harsh things to say about him.

    A muslim burning a koran in a muslim dictatorship is committing suicide. 1000 muslims doing this should be regarded as awesome heros throughout the thinking world. I would set up a chimpanzee driving school to celebrate.

    Douglas. Perhaps in as far as American muslims are Americans, they are not muslims, and vice versa. Even if 9-11 was an inside job, plenty of muslim extremists were happy to take the credit for it. It's what goes on inside the minds of your peaceful law-abiding home-made muslims, and what they teach their babies that makes good material for discussion. I have two daughters and a grand-daughter!

    Thank you IC for your support. My friends must feel free to attack my reasoning and character as well.

    Douglas? Blame is simply connecting mental links between actions - cause and effect MAY be involved, it may not.

    Rev Jones actions may be used by distant activists to stir up violence, so that they have an excuse for retaliation - for instnce. It's just like thunder. The original white-hot flash is over in a fraction of a second, but the thunder spreads according to all kinds of local conditions that have NOTHING to do with the lightening. OK OK, no lightening - no thunder. No koran burning by christians? Muslims will pay sombody to achieve the desired effect. American journalists will make up the rest.

    Jones is not bright enough to figure out the chain of cause and effect, or honest enough to have good intentions, in this case. In my opinion.

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  17. This one is for the "rights above all" advocates.

    Man and woman are married. They stay married for 20 years. One spouse meets someone else and begins an extramarital affair.

    The non-cheating spouse finds out and is distraught, and claims that if the cheating spouse leaves and goes to the interloper, the non-cheating spouse will commit suicide.

    The cheating spouse has a right to leave the marriage. What should the cheating spouse do?

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  18. Here is an interesting blog which we ran across earlier today which reported that a Frenchman was placed on trial for burning and urinating on a Koran (Quran). Some interesting differences between France and the United States are evident.

    We did not take the time to research the accuracy of the stories. However, whether true or not, the different perspective is of some value.

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  19. What I am seeing is a lot of crossover between "personal responsibility" and the "lawful exercise of an inalienable right." I agree with the Inspector that we, as individuals should consider the possible ramifications of our exercising a right. On the other hand, just about any protest will anger or offend someone or some group. If we refrained from anything that might offend someone or some group then we probably wouldn't protest anything ever.

    Inspector, your cheating spouse example is much more specific than the Koran burning incident. It is also a personal relationship issue. The faithful spouse's reaction, by the way, is a bit extreme and only the cheater might know (or might not) if the faithful spouse's threat was credible. It is certainly irrational.

    Corfubob, I again remind you of the cartoonist and of Theo van Gogh.

    It angers me, offends me, when someone burns the American flag in protest over something I think is important and/or I support. I might not kill over it. But I might beat the hell out of someone who does it in front of me. Think they should not burn flags then?

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  20. Douglas:

    1) Are you suggesting that the exercise of a lawful, inalienable right trumps personal responsibility?

    2) Are you suggesting that the exercise of a lawful, inalienable right trumps the fact that the exercise MAY have life-threatening ramifications?

    3) Are you suggesting that the exercise of a lawful, inalienable right trumps the fact that the exercise WILL have life-threatening ramifications?

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  21. 1) no. I am suggesting that the exercise of a lawful right should be considered in terms of both the object and the possible consequences. One will outweigh the other.

    2) Depends upon the inevitability of those ramifications. Just the possibility of them carries less weight than the probability and much less than the inevitability.

    3) no.

    Let me ask you a question:

    Should the mere possibility of lethal or violent ramifications 10,000 miles away in a violent and unstable region always trump the right to freedom of expression?

    Second, optional, question:
    Would you wish to attempt to make that law?

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  22. We here at the Institute Douglas, do not generally have a position on theoretical or hypothetical issues. We just pose or suggest different ways to analyze various issues, so that people might consider them.

    That's all.

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  23. Of course you don't take a particular stand... most of the time, Inspector, but questions raised are often with an inherent, or seeming, perspective, not just to elicit clarity. So I answer as if in debate. My questions in response are often the questions I might ask myself before making a statement, asking a question myself, or answering a question posed.

    In the above case of my answers to your 3 questions, my questions in the reply were ones I had considered before answering yours.

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  24. Corfubob, if I may ask another question...

    You wrote:

    Jones is not bright enough to figure out the chain of cause and effect, or honest enough to have good intentions, in this case. In my opinion.

    On what do you base Jones' intelligence? Is it because you disagreed with his actions? Or because you would not consider doing anything remotely close to it?

    In 1773, some citizens of Boston dressed up like American Indians, boarded some ships, and dumped crates of tea into the harbor. It was a protest against the tax, it was also a protest against the Crown. Anyone could see that it would offend the King and that there would be repercussions.

    What if those men had considered the ramifications and decided it would offend certain people who might then increase, rather than decrease, the very oppression they felt they lived under at the time?

    No American Revolution, perhaps.

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  25. Douglas:

    Thanks for your response. If our choice of words appears to suggest a particular position on an issue, then we apologize. It most frequently derives from not taking enough time to edit our comments. For example, we frequently find ourselves using the negative in posing a question, such as, "Is not /Isn't such a such dah dah dah?"

    When one poses questions in that fashion, all sorts of complications and implications potentially follow.

    We need to do less of that in particular.

    Thanks for the reminder, and for keeping us on our toes.

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  26. Anyone who gets physically angry at the performance of a symbolic act that does no harm to anyone has a problem. We without real power are unlucky if we can't rely on words (and perhaps the odd symbolic act) to convey ideas.

    Pastor Jones demonstrated his poor intellectual grasp for anyone to see. His work is dishonest - he spreads lies, and thinks that children should be taught morality through threats and fiction. That's his job. And we are not discussing his 'sincerity' - even though i doubt that as well.

    Should we not be promoting the power of reason - including Art - to persuade, rather than violence, in this PEACEFUL context? Not that i am a peacemonger. Reason is no use against the armed fanatics - if they exist.

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  27. Quite frankly, we all, including the Members of the Institute, could use a bit more care in our use of the word "offend."

    There are more than 2 or 3 ways to view an "offense;" there are at least 27.

    One might be offended by someone slighting them.

    Another might be offended by someone cussing them.

    Still another might be offended because someone hit on their spouse.

    Others might find it offensive that their spouse is sleeping with someone else.

    Perhaps even more people might be offended to find that their spouse is sleeping with multiple partners.

    Most would be offended by someone injuring their spouse, and even more offended by someone killing their spouse.

    And on and on and on.

    Each one is different and the level of offense is personal to the offended party.

    Out of curiosity, let's say that a couple has a child with some type of physical disability, which is readily apparent, and the condition is genetic.

    Offending party sees the child with his or her parents, and decides that he or she wants to exercise his or her freedom of speech and utter some derogatory and degrading statement about the child in the child's presence. Responsible or irresponsible?

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  28. That's easy. It is totally 'unecessary' to consider the rights of this moron, on this occasion, EVEN IF he is mentally disturbed.

    Forgive me Inspector, the example is not very enlightening, but the question of how much sympathy to show ignorant people who offend without purpose is a deep one.

    As in this case - the SITUATION will suggest the human response. The child must also be protected from over-response from offended parties.

    As with the case of the suicidal spouse, we do not have enough information to form an intelligent judgement. Despite what the priests say, morality is not absolute, it always depends.

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  29. Corfubob, you were doing great when you wrote:

    Anyone who gets physically angry at the performance of a symbolic act that does no harm to anyone has a problem.

    But then you went on to blame (I infer) Jones for the reactions of those whom you say "have a problem."

    I suspect you dislike Jones due to a prejudice you have regarding religion.

    I am atheist and have been, officially, one since I was 12. But I have no particular problem with religion or those who believe in such.

    But that's just me.

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  30. Inspector, I want to comment on this:

    Offending party sees the child with his or her parents, and decides that he or she wants to exercise his or her freedom of speech and utter some derogatory and degrading statement about the child in the child's presence. Responsible or irresponsible?

    I want to comment because I wonder why you have this view of Freedom of Speech. It is not a license to insult, intimidate, or offend. At its root is the freedom of politicalspeech. It is the court which has expanded it to art, literature, film, and so on. I understand why that was done. But we cannot commit libel, we cannot slander someone, without risking retaliation in the form of a lawsuit. Of late, ethnic and other slurs have been used to increase penalties for some felonies. This is because there is a level of discourse that exceeds the right to utter stupid comments.

    And, yet, a simple lesson from childhood... a simple chant... comes to mind when someone insults me.

    "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." It is something I also taught my child when he was young.

    So I tolerate stupidity most times when I am confronted by it. I vote against it when it is uttered by politicians who appear on my ballot. I speak up when others utter slurs of any kind. I cannot do much more. At least, not legally.

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  31. CorfuBob wrote:

    "Anyone who gets physically angry at the performance of a symbolic act that does no harm to anyone has a problem. "

    An act that does no harm to anyone.... Hmmm. We'll have to process that a little longer before commenting.

    Out of curiosity, are you suggesting that symbolic acts can not "hurt" or inflict "harm?"

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  32. Douglas: Does Rev. Jones burning of the Koran fall within the realm of "political speech", or is it an act intended to insult or offend?

    Should we always look at the intent of the actor?

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  33. Douglas. Actually I was trying to say that although Jones was an element in the cycle of actions and reactions following the book-burnings, others like Karzai and the thugs he provoked distorted the process.

    The 'problem' i was referring to was of anger and violence in the context of a society at peace, not one at war like Afganistan.

    I dislike Jones and the infinitely worse examples of his perverted industry. Not 'prejudice' - downright disrespect!

    How you can respect Truth, Justice, Morality. - to name but a few, and have no particular problem with religion might take some explaining.

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  34. Thanks for the quote Inspector, but please respond to the whole, including the qualifiers 'physical' and 'that does no harm'

    Actions or words can precede without causing other actions.

    Evil actions can lead to good.

    Good actions can lead to evil.

    Causal relationships cannot always be proved.

    The intent of an actor cannot always be known - nor is it always important.

    Innocents WILL suffer in the progress towards a more just and happy world.

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  35. Douglas. On Monday at 5;55 you were surely inspired.

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  36. Maybe we missed something CorfuBob. We called ourselves quoting your entire sentence, and lifted it entirely from your comment:

    "Anyone who gets physically angry at the performance of a symbolic act that does no harm to anyone has a problem."

    We thought that "physically' referred to the response (in this case anger) to the act, not the act itself. We also thought that "does no harm" referred to an objective evaluation of the impact on the respondents.

    At any rate, we apologize for either taking your comment out of context, or inappropriate responding to it.

    BTW, the list of other maxims which you provided is quite good.

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  37. Folks:

    Is it possible that all of us have been viewing Rev. Jones' conduct, the acts of Karzai and others, and the response of the offended Muslims through Western, Judeo-Christian lenses?

    Is is possible that if we were similarly situated Muslims living in Afghanistan, we would have a different view of the whole incident?

    Additionally, someone on Twitter suggested that Americans living and working in a Muslim country might feel differently about Jones' conduct.

    We have the physical and legal comfort of being thousands of miles away from any probable physical ramifications associated with the exercise of our purported freedoms, however characterized.

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  38. Corfubob, thank you for the "inspired" comment. I am assuming it was a compliment and not sarcasm.

    You wrote:

    How you can respect Truth, Justice, Morality. - to name but a few, and have no particular problem with religion might take some explaining.

    I have no particular problem with religion because, as I see things, it has done both immense good and immense evil throughout known history. It is the human beings who distort or elevate the teachings that affect how we view it. Let me try an analogy...

    Nature is wonderful, is it not? Beautiful skies, impressive scenery, animals and insects and so on. It is also earthquakes and tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes, floods and mudslides and avalanches. It is barren deserts and lush meadows.

    I see all things in this manner... the yin and the yang, if you will.

    Religion gave us morality, codified it, detailed it, taught it. It also formed and reflected our concepts of justice and mercy. It has helped many and hurt many. It has been, and will remain for some time, an integral part of civilization.

    Yes, it has a lot of lies inherent in it. It also has a lot of truth inherent.

    Inspector, you asked:

    Does Rev. Jones burning of the Koran fall within the realm of "political speech", or is it an act intended to insult or offend?

    Should we always look at the intent of the actor?


    Yes, to the first question, I think it is political in nature. With a religious underpinning. We should react to it in a logical manner, not an emotional one, I think.

    The second question is more difficult. Corfubob put it well. There are few absolutes in life outside of math and even some of that can be less than concrete, less "black and white." We live in a world composed of logic (the concrete) and emotion (the ethereal).

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  39. Douglas. Perverts who abuse young women and small children are also 'imntegral part of civilization' So what? When religion is directly responsible for evil they blame it on mankind and the 'free-will' given it by god. What human needs god to behave morally. kindly, gererously, honestly, to behave responsibly? You don't do you?

    If my compliment was sarcasm, you will find me expressing the opposite views elsewhere!

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  40. Now that we citizens have had our say concerning Rev. Jones' conduct, let's get back to the original question posed.

    President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, and Secretary of State Clinton provided their thoughts on the issue, but why didn't the media cover the incident more, and why didn't more of our national political leaders weigh in?

    Should they have?

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  41. Corfubob, you might want to include politicians with the perverts. We have laws against what the perverts do. We also have laws that protect the people's right to believe in a god or gods. So, I'd say you have a problem. Most of us, the vast majority, understand that many people (the vast majority) understand that religion is not all evil and has many good points.

    Inspector, I saw a number of media reports that linked the Koran burning to the attack on the UN compound. The leaders and others did weigh in... back when Jones originally threatened to burn in on 9-11-2010. What did you want, more outrage at a deed already done? Did you want Obama to denounce Jones in a nationwide, prime time, address?

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  42. Douglas:

    We did not "want" anything. We just made a measured observation, and were curious whether anyone else made the same observation, and whether anyone had a possible explanation.

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  43. 'Spector said:

    "'If the Constitutionality (or at least the "responsibility quotient") of every action and/or communication is to be judged by its potential resultant fallout, we are in heap big doo-doo.'

    Shouldn't the consequences of ALL of our actions be considered before we act? Does the fact that certain acts may be cloaked in Constitutional garb mean that the resultant consequences are considered to some less extent?

    What say ye about the Logistician's Doctrine of Unnecessary?"

    The Logistician may be assuming too much credit for The Doctrine of Unnecessary. I first encountered this philosophy decades ago when it was summed-up thusly by a Soviet Communist Party apparatchik in response to permitting the display of a certain work of art: "Who needs it?" The requested display was promptly pronounced DOA (or “DOU”, if you prefer).

    Now consider the antithesis of the DOU: our American National Endowment for the Arts. NEA funds (with taxpayer money) the creation of some downright offensive and disgusting – dare I say unnecessary? – stuff. While I am not the least bit happy about the public funding of such NEA abominations as the Urine Crucifix and Dung Mary cited earlier, I cannot help but wonder: what is more dangerous to our culture? The freedom to offend, and the freedom to be offended thereby? Or the total absence of offense by dint of un-necessity?

    Independent Cuss

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  44. Independent Cuss wrote:

    "The Logistician may be assuming too much credit for The Doctrine of Unnecessary. I first encountered this philosophy decades ago when it was summed-up thusly by a Soviet Communist Party apparatchik in response to permitting the display of a certain work of art: "Who needs it?" The requested display was promptly pronounced DOA (or “DOU”, if you prefer)."

    Thank you Independent Cuss for bringing this to our attention. It is perhaps a good thing that the Logistician is no longer an active Fellow associated with the Institute, and has departed the States on his sabbatical in Rio de Janeiro. Confidentially, there were some other matters about which we were also concerned during his tenure here.

    Be that as it may, and coming somewhat to his defense, the Logistician always felt that the Doctrine of Unnecessary was a personal doctrine. One, in effect, asks him or herself: Is it really necessary that I do or say this NOW under the circumstances?

    It is akin to a self-questioning or a self-check before taking a step or commencing certain conduct. It might also be viewed as a form of self-discipline or self-restraint.

    Nothing more and nothing less. It does not involve the government, or other actors, or the police or the courts, or anything like that.

    It's just one little individual asking: Is it really necessary that I do or say this NOW under the circumstances?

    Some things in life are better left unsaid or undone. Not all things in life should be done because we "want" to or feel an urge or impulse to do them, or because we have the right to do them.

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  45. 'Spector,

    There is a very-succinctly-worded historical precedent for that concept as well:

    America! America!
    God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
    Confirm thy soul in self-control,
    Thy liberty in law.

    I like to think that lyricist Katherine Lee Bates's third line of this stanza implies a degree of restraint incumbent upon the individual as well as upon the state.

    Of course, there is also a caveat in the fourth line which advises Those Who Would Appoint Themselves Arbiters of Proper Behavior to back off . . .

    Independent Cuss

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  46. ...the Doctrine of Unnecessary was a personal doctrine. One, in effect, asks him or herself: Is it really necessary that I do or say this NOW under the circumstances?

    I refer you to my example of the Boston Tea Party.
    I also suggest you consider if Rosa Parks asked that question before she refused to move.
    There are probably hundreds of other examples.

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  47. Douglas:

    Rosa Parks repeatedly stated that she was not trying to make a statement or start a movement when she sat down in the white section of the bus and stayed there despite requests to move. She said that she was simply "tired."

    Independent Cuss:

    Rosa Parks violated the law. The law trumped her individual issues that day. If she had asked herself, "Do I need to sit in this seat now, at this particular point in time and place," we might be in a different place in terms of history here in the U.S.

    Some might even say that lots of black folks would not have died during ensuing battles. Interestingly, she was not thinking about the ramifications beyond her personal situation.

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  48. Independent Cuss wrote:

    "Of course, there is also a caveat in the fourth line that Those Who Would Appoint Themselves Arbiters of Proper Behavior to back off...."

    The word "arbiter" has lots of definitions, so we had to look it up in our dictionary.

    Arbiter: 1. One chosen to to judge or decide a disputed issue; an arbitrator. 2. One who has the power to judge or ordain at will.

    What concerned us was the modifer, "Appoint Themselves," which amounts to self-appointment.

    Hmm, would any type of religion organization, including the leaders thereof, constitute self-appointed arbiters. Is it your position that religious forces in our society should "back off" from their efforts to judge the conduct of others?

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  49. Closeau, with whom I generally disagree, has brought up a good point. In a free society, the religious folks ought to leave everyone alone, to do whatever they want or see fit to do.

    I for one am quite tired of their interference and influence on our political leadership.

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  50. Anonymous, they have as much influence as the political leadership grants them. They are, however, a constituency and should be listened to. Just as you are part of a constituency and should be listened to. The amount of political clout any constituency has is based on their numbers and the willingness to get out and vote.

    Inspector, you wrote:
    Rosa Parks repeatedly stated that she was not trying to make a statement or start a movement when she sat down in the white section of the bus and stayed there despite requests to move. She said that she was simply "tired."

    I recall reading that a couple of years ago. So, she made a political statement without thinking she was doing so. And it was a good thing. Should she have thought about it first? Should we think about ramifications each and every time we do something that might make a dent in how society behaves?

    I think Rosa Parks did consider the ramifications of her act. I don't think she realized how much of an impact her simple act of defiance would have. I think she thought only, as she said, that she was tired and the impact would be very local.

    Jones may well have thought his little "trial" and subsequent Koran burning would have little impact because he was out of the news by that time. His first intent to burn the Koran got all that publicity but it had died down to the point that he was once again a non-entity, yesterday's news.

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  51. Anonymous - you have the unfair advantage of knowing at least something about the Inspector 'with whom you generally disagree' I asume therefore you are a very disagreeable person without the guts to put even a false name to your comments. However, because i am Corfubob (disclosing both my real name and country of residence) you will be able to guess how much i would like to shake your virtual hand on the point above!

    Part 2. 4 IC.

    I quote: "Is it your position that religious forces in our society should "back off" from their efforts to judge the conduct of others?"

    WOW! I'm not sure whose question this is, but here is a bold YES.

    Another quote: "Interestingly, she was not thinking about the ramifications beyond her personal situation."

    I won't ask whose idea this is, but it is indeed an honour to quote someone with direct access to Rosa's mind on this day! (Irony)

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  52. I enjoyed your comment Douglas. Connection problems have been keeping me away, but I have been able to read everything in emails. Thanks.

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  53. ‘Spector,

    I think you may be reading too much into my analysis of that particular America, the Beautiful stanza.

    Simply stated, I think it hints at the idea that, while the DOU may be advisable under certain circumstances, any limitations set upon free speech and expression should err on the side of tolerance toward those who don’t always tread the advisable path -- such as in the case of Terry Jones.

    I’m not certain why, among the erudite, so much hostility exists toward religious groups (Christians and Jews, more often than not), and why their views should be somehow marginalized or silenced altogether in a nation which is bound by law to tolerate free speech and expression. As Douglas pointed out, they are a constituency whose voices deserve be heard – nothing more.

    But it is easy for me to understand why hostility exists toward those haters who swear to wage genocide against all “infidels”, in the name of their religion or otherwise. To deny this is to deny our cultural survival instinct – or, as I prefer to describe it, to deny the essential “We vs. They” paradigm which (on balance) tends to restrain the dedicated barbarians from overrunning the more civilized tribes here on Planet Earth.

    As for Rosa Parks: did she indeed violate the Doctrine of Unnecessary when she violated the law? Quite a few people today would disagree. As to all of the black people who died as an indirect result: revolution, deliberately set in motion or otherwise, is never bloodless but often necessary.

    Independent Cuss

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  54. Cuss, you have a way with words that I admire. Or maybe it's just that I agree with you.

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  55. Hostility towards religious groups? IC.

    Any Group is a problem when it provides people with authority (excuses) to interfere with other groups who don't pose a threat to the local society. Whatever ideas unite the group, the LEADERS set up the forces for violence and coercian - not the simple nice people who like to be in a group.

    However these same nice people are given to judging all individuals by the main lables of the group they have put them in. It's easy to earn exclusion, is it not?

    Now consider when the top leader of groups numbering hundreds of millions has the gift of eternal hell for those executed by His (no respect inferred) special servants. Some hostility towards the groups and their beloved priests could be expected don't you think?

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  56. IC. Tolerance towards people who do not always follow the preferred path is a normal human quality. But Jones was trying to LEAD. His subject is Jesus, let the curious learn about Mohommad by themselves.

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  57. Corfu Bob said:
    “Group is a problem when it provides people with authority (excuses) to interfere with other groups who don't pose a threat to the local society. Whatever ideas unite the group, the LEADERS set up the forces for violence and coercion - not the simple nice people who like to be in a group.

    However these same nice people are given to judging all individuals by the main labels of the group they have put them in. It's easy to earn exclusion, is it not?

    Now consider when the top leader of groups numbering hundreds of millions has the gift of eternal hell for those executed by His (no respect inferred) special servants. Some hostility towards the groups and their beloved priests could be expected don't you think?”
    Thank you, Bob; you have proven my point precisely. This is why western hostility exists toward Islam and those who practice the particularly virulent brand of it which left three thousand dead in New York in 2001. Yes, I understand that you had western religious leaders in mind when you wrote the above . . . but the wisdom of the statement is so much more appropriate when viewed from the obverse, don’t you think?
    “Tolerance towards people who do not always follow the preferred path is a normal human quality. But Jones was trying to LEAD. His subject is Jesus, let the curious learn about Mohammad by themselves.”

    Jones was not trying to lead; rather, he was reacting. Those who murder innocent people in the name of their God are trying to lead; those who defile the holy book which the attackers claim as the inspiration for their actions are merely reacting to that assault.

    ‘Spector,

    There are many “second- and third-level constituencies” in our society. I question why, in western culture, we masochistically target peaceful religious groups for selective muzzling when most other groups are given an irrevocable hall pass by the media and the ACLU.

    Earlier we spoke of Rosa Parks. You do understand that the civil rights movement would not have succeeded without the activism of those second- and third-level constituencies (the third level comprised mostly of black Baptists and other Judeo-Christian supporters) . . . yes?

    Independent Cuss

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  58. Confusing spacing above brought to you by the unknowable vagaries of computer technology, not by the Independent Cuss.

    IC

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  59. Here's one for you Douglas, CorfuBob, and Independent Cuss:

    Every single individual in the US (except for those disenfranchised for some legal reason) has a voice, a right to vote, and an opportunity to be heard. At least that's finally come to be the theoretical case since the Voting Rights Act.

    But watch what happens after we move from the individual level. Let's say that the citizens of Beverly Hills, who have a decent amount of money, put their efforts and money together to form some type of group to advance their interests, and now they have a second voice as a group.

    And arguably the citizens of Bedford-Sty, even though they have far less money, could form their group and pursue their issues, although admittedly with less capital.

    In both instances, their is now a 2nd level of "constituency."

    Then the Catholics of Beverly Hills and the Catholics of Bed-Sty form another group to advance their religious interests. There is arguably a 3rd level of constituency or a 3rd voice that the individual citizens who are members of the group have which the 1st level people do not have, but theoretically could have.

    In theory, individual citizens wanting to be heard could each communicate their concerns to their elected reps. But when the groups who have money and power are standing in the line outside of the elected reps office, and the individual citizens are in the same line, who gets to be heard first, or the longest, or not heard at all?

    The "constituency" issue is arguably not as uniform as it might seem at first glance. Thus to say, X is just another constituency entitled to be heard, is far more complicated than meets the eye at first glance.

    (BTW, one of the more interesting things about writing a blog on the subject matter which we address: We love the way in which people interpret our simple asking or posing of a question as our having taken a position on an issue.)

    (If we were to ask, "Do you expect the Lakers to win tonight?," or "Shouldn't the Lakers win tonight?," very few individuals would interpret that as meaning that we support the Lakers, or that WE expect them to win.)

    (However, in the world of political ideas it appears that the posing of a question suggests to others that you have taken a side or position or otherwise you would not asked the question in that manner. Fascinating.)

    (Imagine during our youth, our Mothers asking whether we washed our hands before sitting down to the dinner table. We guess that there was a thought on our part that our Mothers supported hand-washing before meals. But then again, they often told us their positions in advance, and clearly.)

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  60. Independent Cuss:

    We over here at the Institute understand very little in the world; we're neither particularly sophisticated, gifted, nor prescient. Hard, clear lines are difficult for us to draw in most things political. We find that we are continually balancing competing considerations on a case-by-case basis, and that all political issues have far more complexity than meets our humble eyes.

    That's why we continually note that in our view, there are more than 2 or 3 ways to view any issue; there are at least 27. Although we admit that some apparently feel that the number is reduced with time and age.

    Our readers continually elucidate and educate us on many issues.

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  61. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  62. I'd like to remind you that blocs are a fact of life in any real democracy. Power through unity. Unions, business organizations (temporary and permanent), church groups, environmentalists, civil rights groups, and so on are all special interest political blocs formed to ensure their positions are considered when Congress proposes legislation.

    Individuals have only a single vote each, an equal voice. But the groups I mentioned are there to fight for group rights. Perfectly legal and how democracy works. If you say we should not have that then outlaw ALL special interest groups, not just the ones you think are "bad." Even if you could find a majority willing to give up their own power through these political interest groups in order to counter the ones they disagree with, you might still have to find a way around the courts who have repeatedly affirmed the Constitutionality of these groups under the First Amendment.

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  63. I would like to diverge from the topic at hand for just a moment to thank the good Inspector for providing to us, via this forum, an opportunity to engage in analytical thought and intelligent, lively discussion.

    Reading TVFOMTW and posting here is often the most fun which I experience in a day -- and no, that is not in the least pathetic. I am not a shut-in, but I am relatively hermit-esque so I don't often have the opportunity to connect with others who can carry on a civil discussion on this level.

    Thanks again to the 'Spector, and to all who challenge, educate and entertain me by participating in these discussions. Hopefully, I am able to return the gesture upon occasion.

    Independent Cuss

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  64. We just read through the entire chain of comments, and a couple of rhetorical questions came to mind:

    1) Is the typical citizen in the U.S. primarily driven by (a) the values which he or she hold most dear, (b) forces outside of the person over which he or she has little control, or (c) both roughly equally?

    2) Is it any different for those citizens of other countries outside of the US/western industrialized world?

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  65. Douglas:

    Thanks for reminding us that blocs are a part of American democracy. We guess that the question is whether they are fair, can the system be improved (or need not be improved), and whether it results in the equitable distribution and exercise of power.

    We honestly don't know, but it makes the concept of "one man - one vote" a tad more complicated.

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  66. Thanks Independent Cuss for your compliment. You very succinctly expressed the motivation for the maintenance of this blog.

    We often tell folks that we have learned more about people, ideas, and views in the past 3 years, than we learned in the preceding 50 plus years.

    Pretty amazing technological vehicle.

    We hope that you keep participating in and contributing to our forum.

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  67. Inspector, I'd like to answer those rhetorical questions:

    1. d) Ego

    2. Yes and no. Yes, because some desires seem to be universal and no, because different cultures evolve different concepts for core values.

    Freedom, for example. That can even have personal, singular, definitions.

    On the political blocs, fairness is what they aim to get around. Especially that "one man, one vote" limitation. If you allow one group of people to band together in order to have a louder "voice" then you must allow other groups to do the same. If you ban some groups, you must ban all groups.

    Besides, how do you think clans, tribes, armies, towns, cities, and nations formed? Not to mention gangs, tongs, crime mobs, civic associations, and the like. Just individuals banding together to improve their chances of survival. A natural part of the human nature.

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  68. There is a piece of French history which may be relevant to the issue of expressing one’s self, and the application of the Doctrine of Unnecessary.

    During the French Revolution (1789-1799), they were leading a priest, a drunkard, and an engineer to the guillotine.

    They asked the priest if he wanted to face up or down when he met his fate. The priest said that he would like to face up so that he would be looking toward heaven when he died. They raises the blade of the guillotine, released it, and it came speeding down and suddenly stopped just inches from his throat. The authorities took this as divine intervention and released the priest.

    Next the drunkard was brought to the guillotine. He decided to die facing up also, hoping that he would be as fortunate as the priest. They raised the blade of the guillotine, released it, and it came speeding down. But once again, it suddenly stopped just inches from his throat. Consequently, the authorities released the drunkard as well.

    The engineer was next. He too, decided to die facing up. The executioners were in the process of slowly raising the blade of the guillotine, when suddenly the engineer said while pointing, "Hey, I think the problem is that the cable is binding right there.... "

    The moral of story? It is often dangerous to lose the opportunity to remain silent.

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  69. Jones is in the news again but now you have to hunt for it.

    http://www.wtsp.com/news/national/article/188502/81/Rev-Jones-Trail-Based-On-1846-Statute

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  70. Douglas:

    Many thanks for the update on Rev. Jones. It definitely adds more complexity to the picture, or perhaps, we have more information with which to ....

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  71. Douglas,

    I must admit that I am confused by the linked article; perhaps that is due to nothing more than bad reporting or editing. What I read seems to suggest that Jones is now in jail for planning a protest in front of a Dearborn, MI mosque -- not carrying it out after being forbidden by the 1846 statute, mind you, but merely for planning it.

    The Dearborn prosecutor had to reach all the way beck to 1846 to find a statute which would allow him to prosecute Jones for whatever he apparently planned to do but has not yet done (if I am incorrect about this, someone please correct me).

    Well, hell, if the legal beagles are going to saddle-up the wayback machine and ride it back to the mid-19th century, then they'll be able to rustle up an archaic statute which will allow them to nail anybody for anything every time! In my state, I could perhaps legally participate in a duel or keep indentured servants by employing 1846 statutes -- wow, the possibilities are infinite!

    If the "authorities" invested as much time and effort trying to impede genuine criminals and terrorists as they expended upon reigning-in Terry Jones, then I would cease to characterize our American system of jurisprudence as "justice turned upside-down".

    Independent Cuss

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  72. He was jailed for refusing to post a "peace bond" (required by that 1846 law) in order to take part in the planned protest. As I understand it (and I may be wrong), the peace bond was required because there could a disturbance of the peace (perhaps even a riot) as a result of the protest. The peace bond amount was $1, which makes no sense at all. Jones refused to pay because he saw it as an infringement on his First Amendment rights.

    If it hadn't been Jones, I suspect there would have been no trial and no peace bond.

    I guess you could call this one of the ramifications of his burning that Koran.

    And where is the ACLU?

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  73. In digesting the comment of Independent Cuss, we got the sense that something bothers him about the pre-emptive nature of the governmental handling of Rev. Jones anticipated conduct, and justifiably so. It is somewhat akin to the concept of prior restraint. Does the imposition of the peace bond adequately address the Constitutional concerns?

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  74. IC - Allow me to insist that Jones was acting as a Pastor, and a leader of his flock. He was also acting of course as a follower of his employers, and maybe even his conscience. I had all religious groups in mind,and have nothing good to say about their leaders, particularly in history. But political and social pressure groups are more subject to continual adjustment through democracy.

    I have plenty of virulence in stock for some political/commercial pressure groups who effectively paralyze the poor, but such groups are more subject to continual adjustment through democracy.

    American law seems to have moved on a little from the earlier concept of 'prior restraint' in connection with freedom of speech. Perhaps it is better that the freedom to express is sacrosanct while not removing the right of law to sanction after the act of expression. This right to sanction can have to go through procedures while still acting as a deterrent which can reflect general sensitivity.

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  75. Well said, Corfubob, if I read you right. Someone (Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing in her biography of Voltaire) once said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." (Naturally, people often think Voltaire said it) That is, I think, the essence of the concept of free speech.
    The more complex a society becomes, the more complex the concept of freedom of speech becomes, does it not? But, at its core, it is the defense of the speaker's right to say it, not an endorsement of what is said.

    I often, when discussing this concept, think back to the the American Nazi Party's attempt to stage a march in Skokie, IL in 1977. The ACLU defended the right of the ANP to march and eventually won their case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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  76. Douglas,

    Thanks for trying to clarify, but the line in the story "Jones then refused to pay a $1, yes $1 bond set by Judge Mark Somer, so he was sent to jail" still baffles me. To the limited extent that manipulating a specific legal outcome by invoking an archaic statute makes sense, I still can't grasp the mechanics of how a case can constitutionally be brought to trial and the defendant found guilty and jailed for an infraction he has yet to commit. Was the goal to perhaps keep him in incarcerated during that period of time for which the protest was scheduled?

    Yes, I understand that Jones's refusal to pay the one dollar peace bond seems at first glance to be icing on the "crazy cake", but think about it: doesn’t preemptive incarceration as a response to the free exercise of one’s First Amendment rights more effectively highlight the blatant injustice than reactive incarceration for same? And yes, I agree that the ACLU needs to get involved . . . but this case probably doesn't fit its rather narrow agenda. Had Jones instead decided to burn a Holy Bible, the ACLUers would have been lined-up outside the courtroom door, fighting over which one would be allowed to defend him.

    And yes, Inspector, I do indeed have a problem with "preemptive justice". It has that whole "Minority Report" dynamic going for it; I simply cannot brook the notion that someone can be jailed for a very questionably criminal act which they have not yet committed, nor to prevent commission of same.

    I have just returned from our quiet little Methodist country church following a very pleasant Easter sunrise service. No Qurans were burned.

    Independent Cuss

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  77. This question is posed to those outside of the legal profession (since lawyers already know the answer):

    Is a person entitled to yell "fire" in a crowded movie theater when there is no fire?

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  78. Of course not; that is a clear-cut issue involving irresponsibility absent concern for public safety.

    If one gratuitously shouts "Fire!", the actor has direct causal influence upon reactors who are responding self-defensively. If reactors are injured as a result, the full responsibility lies with the actor.

    On the other hand, if the sum total defense for an irresponsible act is (for example) "I saw somebody do it in a movie", that individual is assuming a proactive role, not a self-defensive role. He alone is therefore responsible for his actions. The same would apply to one whose defense for his actions amounts to "I killed those Christians because I saw a preacher burn a Quran".

    And before anybody jumps up and hollers "Gotcha!": Terry Jones's reaction to terrorism (Quran-burning) is constitutionally protected via free speech precedent established in Federal court, whereas a reaction of "I killed somebody 'cuz the preacher made me mad by burning a Quran" is still proactive murder by current statute. Case closed.

    So: how close did I come to the legal rationale?

    Independent Cuss

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  79. Independent Cuss asked how close he came to the legal analysis of the "falsely shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater. Here's the answer.

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  80. 'Spector,

    Thanks. The Wikipedia definition seems to offer plenty of room for interpretation, whereas my hypothetical rule of resultant reactive versus proactive behavior would seem to be a bit more concrete. Call it the "Whoever Actually Pulled the Trigger" rule.

    So: what's the next topic . . ?

    Independent Cuss

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  81. We're not through with this one quite yet Independent Cuss.

    How about FALSE political speech or expression? Are they protected?

    Do they have to be willfully false?

    We, of coure recognize that certain false utterances can be theoretically remedied in a civil action in the form of a libel or slander (defamation) lawsuit.

    But as has often been said, "It may be too late to unring the bell...."

    During the Joe McCarthy (Red Bashing) era, lots of folks lost their livelihood and ability to work as a result of being incorrectly branded "Communistic sympathizers."

    Was that protected speech or expression?

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  82. What we found rather interesting in the discussion thread associated with this post was that there was a paucity of discussion about a man of God doing what he was doing.

    Folks focused extensively on his right to engage in political expression, which, of course, every citizen has.

    However, one would have thought that more attention, even if only 20%, might have been paid to the "religious Jones," or the fact that he is a religious leader for some.

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  83. Pastor Jones might or might not be knowledgeable in his field - a matter of supreme lack of interest to me, but burning the koran in public was or would have been a 'political' act from a nonentity (outside of his tiny church) - an act for which he is accountable to no-one. This self-important little intellectual runt then went on to claim an important role in negotiating a re-siteing of the 911 mosque.

    Religion gave us morals, Douglas? Right, how else would we know it used to be OK to burn Witches and Heretics.

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  84. IC - Allow me to insist that Jones was acting as a Pastor, and a leader of his flock. He was also acting of course as a follower of his employers, and maybe even his conscience. I had all religious groups in mind,and have nothing good to say about their leaders, particularly in history. But political and social pressure groups are more subject to continual adjustment through democracy.

    I have plenty of virulence in stock for some political/commercial pressure groups who effectively paralyze the poor, but such groups are more subject to continual adjustment through democracy.

    American law seems to have moved on a little from the earlier concept of 'prior restraint' in connection with freedom of speech. Perhaps it is better that the freedom to express is sacrosanct while not removing the right of law to sanction after the act of expression. This right to sanction can have to go through procedures while still acting as a deterrent which can reflect general sensitivity.

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  85. Independent Cuss:

    We over here at the Institute understand very little in the world; we're neither particularly sophisticated, gifted, nor prescient. Hard, clear lines are difficult for us to draw in most things political. We find that we are continually balancing competing considerations on a case-by-case basis, and that all political issues have far more complexity than meets our humble eyes.

    That's why we continually note that in our view, there are more than 2 or 3 ways to view any issue; there are at least 27. Although we admit that some apparently feel that the number is reduced with time and age.

    Our readers continually elucidate and educate us on many issues.

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  86. IC. Tolerance towards people who do not always follow the preferred path is a normal human quality. But Jones was trying to LEAD. His subject is Jesus, let the curious learn about Mohommad by themselves.

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  87. Closeau, with whom I generally disagree, has brought up a good point. In a free society, the religious folks ought to leave everyone alone, to do whatever they want or see fit to do.

    I for one am quite tired of their interference and influence on our political leadership.

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  88. Douglas:

    We did not "want" anything. We just made a measured observation, and were curious whether anyone else made the same observation, and whether anyone had a possible explanation.

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  89. Douglas: Does Rev. Jones burning of the Koran fall within the realm of "political speech", or is it an act intended to insult or offend?

    Should we always look at the intent of the actor?

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  90. Corfubob, you were doing great when you wrote:

    Anyone who gets physically angry at the performance of a symbolic act that does no harm to anyone has a problem.

    But then you went on to blame (I infer) Jones for the reactions of those whom you say "have a problem."

    I suspect you dislike Jones due to a prejudice you have regarding religion.

    I am atheist and have been, officially, one since I was 12. But I have no particular problem with religion or those who believe in such.

    But that's just me.

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  91. We here at the Institute Douglas, do not generally have a position on theoretical or hypothetical issues. We just pose or suggest different ways to analyze various issues, so that people might consider them.

    That's all.

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  92. Cheyanne (Shy Anne), thank you for visiting our forum. We look forward to your continued participation. You wrote:

    "I think Karzai, the leader of Afghanistan[,] may have been a conduit for the violence also, because he made a speech and told the Afghan people about this Koran burning preacher from America. Then that's when all hell seemed to break loose."

    There will always be people who will try to manipulate events to advance their goals. They are always in the woodwork. Should that stop us from certain acts or conduct?

    It depends. However, there will always be those type of people around after the precipitating conduct. It is one of the many and varied ramifications associated with the choices we make.

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  93. Dan brought up a very important point: the balancing of interests. Balancing is exactly that - not all or nothing.

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  94. What Douglas said.

    Bob,

    You need to address that question to the ACLU, not to me. But since burning just about any book which uplifts our nation and our western culture is declared to be "protected free speech" thanks to precedent set by that august body of legal beagles, it would seem to infer that burning of the Holy Quran is okey-dokey as well.

    IC

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  95. I think Karzai, the leader of Afghanistan may have been a conduit for the violence also, because he made a speech and told the Afghan people about this Koran burning preacher from America. Then that's when all hell seemed to break loose. I'm not on anybody's side, especially the freaky Floridian preacher's. I'm just sayin' if our American "freak show" as George Carlin so aptly named it, and where we Americans get a front row seat and ticket to the freak show never showed up on anybody else's radar screen, or big screen how would they know. Karzai knew what would happen when he told the Afghan audience about our freaky preacher, and it did.

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  96. Good old Pastor Jones made the news over here as well. The two disturbing things about this were: 1. the fact that he's a Pastor and 2. the overwhelming support he received in defense of his Rights. Made me wonder if Salman Rushdie or the Mohammed cartoons ever made it into the US news. In the US the focus was overwhelmingly about the pastors "rights" while over here the focus was only on his actions and the possible results. We have seen in the past were false pride can lead to. Placing more value on Symbols like books and flags instead on all the people living in this country is still a cause for great concern.
    Pastor Jones is old news though, Herman Cain is concerned about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and spewing plenty of hate. Puke-worthy in my view.

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  97. wsteffie:

    It is interesting that you, a European, who also lived here in the U.S. for an extended period of time, would comment on U.S. society's seeming focus on the pastor's "rights."

    We recognize that you came to the table late during the meal on this one. If you have not already done so, a review of the extensive comments back and forth when this post was originally published, adds support to your perception that we here in the U.S. are enamored with our rights. Of course, we have a history which cultivated that.

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  98. From the distance it certainly looks like a lot of Americans are enamored with their own rights and the rights of those that they go conform with. But it stops right there! Strange though that the rights of the people who protested the Afghan war recently were hardly mentioned.
    There are people over here, that do not like Islam and its various followers and they are vocal about that. The MSN and our politicians have not fed us any hate-propaganda and that means that there is no elevated fear. Most people know, terrorists only represent terror and they are using Islam to justify their actions. Perhaps another reason might be the many different Islamist that live over here peacefully for many years. There are plenty of reports about our own terror problems ( http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,761391-2,00.html ), and we are cautious .
    No surprise, the most recent debate over a second mosque in my town was not about the right to build it, it was about its height.

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  99. We Americans are a very complicated bunch. One has to keep in mind that oceans are on both the east and west coasts of our nation, and only Canada borders us to the north, and Mexico to the south. Additionally, when one considers the manner in which this new land was settled, immigration over the years, and the fact that we really only speak one language, the reasons for our tolerance of some things, and intolerance of others, is somewhat understandable.

    What's unfortunate is that during bad economic times, we have a tendency to start fighting one another. That may be the case in other countries also, since to some extent, that is human nature. However, with the vastness of our country contributing to the ability to be fairly isolated, and the large number of different ethnic groups and cultures, it does not surprise us if anything, both good and bad, occurs here.

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