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Use caution debating free speech

I have a beef with both Mary Starrett's and John Calhoun's columns on what constitutes free speech (Two Views: Michael Savage's talk show spawns passionate debate, Insight, March 21).

First of all, Mr. Calhoun: If you think we should censor people who say things because what they say could cause hate crimes, how then should we deal with those who oppose the war on Iraq?

Antiwar protests could sap the morale of our troops, which could cause a Vietnam War-like defeat, which could lead to an invasion of Mideast terrorists. That idea sounds pretty frightening to a lot of people out there, and many of them think it wrong to disagree with the president right now.

And Ms. Starrett: If you think that censorship is mostly from the left, then should I remind you that our men in the armed forces can't buy Playboy magazine on base because right-wingers in Washington, D.C., passed a law banning such material from base stores? And that political correctness stems from the 1960s backlash against the decade that gave us the House Un-American Activities Committee and people who didn't want to see Elvis shake his hips on television?

While censorship is wrong, period, you still have to admit that attacking hate radio because it could result in potential violence is a bit more profound than accusing 'The Catcher in the Rye' of being pornographic.

Daniel Flaherty

Southwest Portland

Right-wing radio

knows no bounds

The real target of right-wing talk radio hosts isn't the liberal left, but each other. After years of domination by Rush Limbaugh, someone like Michael Savage had to come along and ratchet up the intensity. He has called Limbaugh 'liberal' on immigration issues and refers to the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard as 'the meekly Standard.' Now many of these hosts try to match him.

Guest columnist Mary Starrett is correct when she says that ratings drive right-wing talk radio (It's not hate radio because you disagree, Insight, March 21). However, millions of people listen to right-wing radio and watch 'reality TV.' Do the math. There has to be some overlap here, and this indicates the level that political discourse has reached.

Has right-wing talk radio gone too far? Who knows how far its hosts can stretch their credibility.

Tom Wendt

Northwest Portland

Tax too zealously, and

expect consequences

Wendi Meremark is absolutely right: Money is nothing more than a piece of paper (Pay your taxes, and get back to work, Readers' Letters, March 18). But the rest of that illogical tirade is just that: a tirade.

Whether or not I own the piece of paper our currency is printed on, I certainly own the goods and labor it represents. And if anyone thinks they can escape paying taxes by avoiding the exchange of these pieces of paper and engaging in direct trade or barter, I suggest the IRS take a long, hard look at his or her activities. Just because some earlier societies did not exchange currency does not mean their citizens were not subject to taxation by the crown.

As for the assertion that I should fork over a portion of the proceeds from my labor and services just to receive an orderly society, or because a majority of my fellow citizens say so, I suggest Meremark think again. Democracy is not an excuse for taking away another person's freedoms, labor or property.

There is a point at which taxation becomes burdensome and unjust, even if supported by a democratic majority. We fought one war to end slavery. Meremark, and our civic leaders, should never forget that this could be repeated if enough of our rights and liberties are infringed upon, including the right to keep our property and the proceeds from our labor.

Jeff Altig

Northeast Portland

Story trivialized

neighborhood worries

The article about a poor, misunderstood family suffering harassment at the hands of their mean, law-abiding neighbors was nothing short of a fairy tale Ñ with the heroes cast as villains (Feuding neighbors locked in stalemate, March 18).

The article insinuates that I am behind a conspiracy to harass Sherri Jackson, one of the people who live in a suspected drug house in our neighborhood. Yet the complaints against Jackson and her family predate my arrival. I am simply one more neighbor working for a safer community.

The fact that there are so many verifiable violations for us to report is not our fault, and reporting these crimes does not make us bad people. Citizens have a right to be active participants in what happens in their neighborhoods; we have the right to work to ensure that the place where we raise our families and form community is a healthy and safe place to live. It's called being a good citizen, and it should be encouraged, not disparaged.

This is a case of neither police harassment nor feuding neighbors; it is the story of an entire community rising up together to take back their neighborhood. The Tribune missed a great opportunity to tell a great story and instead chose sensationalism over substance.

Kyr Westwind

Northeast Portland

The time is now

for the big leagues

With the stadium bill getting introduced in the Oregon House, it's time to unite and bring baseball to Portland (Salem could kill baseball dreams, March 25). Finally, a sport you can afford to take your family to and not break the bank.

Major league baseball doesn't want to expand, so this might be one of the last chances to bring America's game to Portland where it belongs.

Philip Gendhar

Aurora

Refugees bring brutal

tradition with them

The emotionally slanted story of Bantus coming to America understates important facts about Somali society (Out of Africa, on to a fresh start, March 28). This is a people whose normal behavior includes torture and child abuse, namely female genital mutilation. According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Somalia is 98 percent.

Last October, the U.S. government considered banning Somali refugee families because they continue to castrate their little girls in this barbaric way. In fact, Somalis slated to enter America were rushing to mutilate even toddlers after they learned that the practice was illegal here.

There is evidence that the mutilation merely goes underground in the United States.

Americans shouldn't be forced to welcome a criminal culture into our midst and then be forced to pay for it through tax dollars. Women in particular should be angered that some of the world's worst misogyny is being welcomed in a skewed idea of diversity.

Brenda Walker

Berkeley, Calif.