This news report out of Missouri caught my eye:

When it comes to politics, there may be as many opinions as cars cruising down U.S. 65. So, naturally, there are different reactions to a billboard south of Ozark that says “Voted Obama? Embarrassed yet?”

“I know the president didn’t win down here, but there were a lot of people down here that voted for him, and I think I can speak for them and say we are not embarrassed yet,” Matthew Patterson, executive director of the Greene County Democratic Central Committee, said in a telephone interview on Sunday. [So this local Democrat believes Obama only won the Presidency in places where he received a majority vote? No wonder so many Democrats thought Gore won in 2000. --TPK]

“My partner and I felt lots of frustration here lately, and we liked that sign and we thought that was a reasonable question to ask,” Steve Critchfield said in a telephone interview on Monday.

Critchfield and his business partner from Commercial One Brokers, a real estate firm in Branson, saw a similar sign online, bought it, and brought it to the Ozarks.

“I’ve certainly voted for people I’m embarrassed to say I’ve voted for,” he said. “We’re not naïve enough to think that we wouldn’t get someone to be upset. I’m just surprised how upset people are.”

Critchfield says he’s received death threats due to the sign; people accuse him of hate speech and racism. He insists the billboard was for something more American in the name of discourse, conversation, and old-fashioned debate.

“If everybody thinks [President Obama's] done a great job and they’re very happy,” he said, “then I guess they’d be buying billboards saying ‘I’m proud to have voted for him.’ That’s what makes America great, isn’t it?”

Did you catch both the good and bad examples of free speech being exercised in the article? Obviously Steve Critchfield is exercising his right to free speech by buying the billboard, and people who are issuing death threats and accusing him of racism and hate speech are also exercising theirs. But those people are using their freedom of speech in a way designed to shut Critchfield up and deny him his freedom, a typical liberal response to the speech that liberals dislike.

But Critchfield nails the essence of free speech in the final two paragraphs of the news story: if people disagree with his opinion, the best way to express that would be to purchase a billboard of their own to support President Obama. That would be a dialog of ideas, and people could weigh the merits of each. And a dialog is much better than one side demanding that the other side shut up.

Michael Ramirez gets the trend in the open hand of diplomacy as presented by President Obama:

The open hand of diplomacy

He could have added Great Britian to the list as one of the ally nations being trashed by the current undocumented President.

Does it makes sense to play nice with the nations that hate us, and look with distain on those nations who are our allies? Yeah, I didn’t believe so either. But that’s what America gets when it voted for an unqualified neophite for president.

To refresh your memory, here’s the relevant part of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech…” The Founding Fathers didn’t want the government preventing people from speaking out on any subject. And I have noticed that it is easy to support speech we agree with, but the real test comes when it is speech we don’t agree with.

Several months back in Missouri, a billboard was erected depicting now-President Obama in a turban and equating him with more abortions, same-sex marriages, taxes, and gun regulations. The Washburn Review editorial board wrote the following about the billboard:

There are several issues wrapped up together about this sign. It is offensive and uncalled for. It makes whomever wrote it look bigoted and unintelligent. Unintelligent because if Obama is elected, there won’t necessarily be MORE abortions or MORE same sex marriages. There might be the same number. The sign is misleading and offensive, to say the least. We cannot say that the sign is completely wrong because there might be more taxes or more gun regulations. There are good ways to make arguments and poor ways to make arguments. This sign is an asinine way to make an argument.

Nevertheless, should people be without the right to say such things? If we take away that right…what is next? The United States ruled that parody is a form of democratic dialogue. Is this parody or just racist name-calling?

It is an overly offensive piece of political “speech” that may be little more than ignorant people making ignorant claims.

These people should have the right to say/depict stupid things, because the rights of free speech are imperative to a democracy. [emphasis mine - CM]

Since we don’t, strictly speaking, live in a democracy, I’ll reword the last sentence correctly — the rights of free speech are imperative in our representative republic. People are, and should remain, free to speak and write whatever stupid or enlightened things they choose. If we like what people say, we can thank them with money and attention. Likewise, we can use our own freedom of speech to counter the ignorant and insulting speech of others. The proper reaction to speech we don’t like should be the free exercise of our own speech, and not gratification of the desire to shut others up. If we say that their speech shouldn’t be allowed because we don’t like it, or it hurts our sensitive feelings, then what stops them from stopping our speech because they don’t like it either? Either we all have free speech, or we don’t.

So what is the proper response to a sign you don’t like hanging up in some business? If it offends you, then don’t patronize that business. If you wish, you could explain to the proprietor why you find the sign offensive–and, if he doesn’t seem to care, why you won’t be spending your money there. Because of the freedom of speech, the business owner has the right to post any sign he chooses, just as you have the right to explain to the owner your displeasure with the sign, and the right to take your business elsewhere. But not everyone seems to understand the proper response to business signs:

The sign that reads “Unattended Children Will Be Sold As Slaves” has hung on the wall of the business for decades until Wednesday. The owner of Soap Opera Coin and Laundry said it was there when he bought the place and he just never took it down.

He called it a light-hearted nudge at parents who don’t watch their kids.

“It’s a joke. You have a child that’s messing around and ‘Oh, I’ll sell them as slave.’ I guess I can see how someone might get upset,” said David Marti, the laundromat owner.

Marti removed the sign after a customer complained about it to a Jacksonville television station.

The sign was removed, not because the customer complained to the owner, but because the customer complained to a local TV station. This is the classic liberal self-centered position of “I’m offended, so you need to change.” Sure, the hyper-offended are free to speak to the press, but they are doing so for two reasons: 1) because they’re too passive-aggressive to express their displeasure directly to those who offended them and 2) because they can’t accept the free speech of others. And that is why I say that the test of free speech comes when the speech in question is something we don’t agree with.

And speaking of things we don’t agree with, here is a final example of the repression of free speech in the news:

Two days after a man was sentenced to probation and community service for putting up a sign as a “joke” in a public works garage that said “whites only” on a drinking fountain, city police were called to a home in the 600 block of 25th Street on Sunday to investigate another racially charged sign.

This one was clearly no joke.

No charges were filed Sunday, but police told the woman she must take down the handwritten sign on a fence on her property saying, “I rent three bedrooms [at her address to] white people Niagara Falls.”

The 53-year-old woman told police she put up the sign after someone tried to break into her house and added, “I can do what I want. I live in America,” according to a police report.

Police said they received complaints and she must take the sign down. An officer at the scene said the woman agreed to take down the sign under protest. The officer said the woman already had seven more signs she was planning to hang up.

What is the proper response to her exercise of free speech on her own property? The offended could talk to her about their issues with her sign. They could explain that such an openly racist sign was rude and offensive to the entire neighborhood. They could refuse to rent from her. Or they could exercise their own free speech to complain and discuss her sign. But instead of countering her free speech with their own, they responded by denying her freedom of speech at the hands of the authorities.

Remember, it’s easy to support the freedom of speech of those with whom we agree. The real test comes when we disagree completely with the speech of others. The Washburn Review editorial board understood this, but the people of Jacksonville, Florida and Niagara Falls, New York failed to stand up for the right of free speech because an individual’s particular exercise of it offended them. During the eight years of President Bush’s terms in office, liberals proudly proclaimed that dissent was patriotic. Based on the way liberals react when they are offended, I don’t think they will view conservative dissent of President Obama’s policies in the same way.

Is your offense greater than another person’s freedom? I don’t think so, but too many people do.

I’ve observed before that the left believes in the freedom of speech only when it is their speech being protected. I call this phenomenon “Free speech for me, but not for thee” because when the left disagrees with someone, they have no problem with denying the other person the chance to speak, or drowning out someone else’s speech with screams when the floor belongs to another speaker.

Let’s look at a few examples caught on camera. First, however a warning: some of these videos have foul language. You have been warned. Now, onward! Earlier this year in Chicago, six people stood up in the middle of the Holy Name Cathedral Easter Mass service, interrupting Cardinal George in the middle of his homily.

While these six people have every right to state their opinions, the middle of Easter services is the wrong time and place to do so. If you believe the government is wrong, then go to a government venue to express your opinion. Don’t pull your stunt in the middle of a church service, interrupting the worship of thousands of people. It is rude, boorish and counter-productive.

Here is another example of interrupting in an inappropriate time and place. I’m sorry that you’ll have to listen to Sheila Jackson Lee for 30 seconds at the beginning of this clip from Bill Maher’s show.

I’m not a fan of Bill Maher, but he makes a great point two minutes into the video: “You are in the audience. Audience comes from the Latin ‘to listen.’” Again, disrupting Bill Maher’s show with your 9/11 “truther” agenda is the wrong time and place, and it ultimately does your cause a disservice.

In the next video, the Recreate68 crowd in Denver gathers around a Fox News camera crew and strong-arms them out of their midst.

Caleb says it well in his report of this scene:

Throughout the event, these men and women exercising their freedom of speech lamented, in dramatic and ominous terms, their lack of free speech. Then in the middle of the event they decided to silence the Fox News crew.

For a peace protest, these guys sure are ready to make war. Not with enemies abroad, but with conservatives at home, real or perceived. Stop war, they cry. Just not theirs, apparently.

Remember that the First Amendment, which specifically mentions your freedom of speech, also safeguards freedom of the press. But if you disagree with the reporters or the network they represent, then their right to report the news is not to be honored. Classy.

OK, so I’ve been picking on the left for their tendency to interrupt at the wrong time and place, but the phenomenon of interrupting someone else’s speech isn’t exclusive to leftist radicals. In the next clip, several survivors of abortion stand up and interrupt a speech by Senator Obama:

I actually support the idea that abortion, as it is commonly practiced in the United States, is an abomination — but disrupting a speech to point this out is rude, and again, it’s the wrong time and place. The people had congregated to listen to Obama, not to the disruptors. This kind of interruption as as boorish and unwelcome as having a loud phone conversation or repeatedly yelling out the address of your MySpace page in a packed movie theater. The people in attendance paid to watch the movie, not to listen to you.

There is an appropriate time and place for actions and words. If you disagree with the government, some official, or a person’s position on an issue, then feel free to speak up! But pick the right venue. If you are going to protest, then do it with class, not crass. Here’s an example of a classy protest — at 1:15 into the following clip, a lone protester stands and holds up his sign. He says nothing — just holds up his sign.

Is he interrupting Sean Penn’s speech? Well, he’s not shouting and preventing Penn from speaking. He’s just holding up his sign. Had the others in the crowd left him alone, he would have continued to stand there quietly. Their actions caused more of a stir than he did. And their actions proved that they didn’t respect his right to free speech, as his sign was torn out of his hands. It’s worthwhile to point out that while he showed some class and respect for the people around him, this protester still picked the wrong place and time to make his point.

It’s easy to stand up for speech with which you agree, but it is much harder to stand up for speech with which you disagree. I dislike protests that disrupt the freedom of others to speak their mind. If you have something to say, then post to a blog, email your friends, call people on the phone, or stand on a street corner and just plain talk. Explain and convert as many people as you can to your position with the excellence of your rhetoric and argument. But as you want people to honor your freedom of speech, you should be prepared to honor theirs.

Don’t scream and shout when other people are talking. Didn’t your mom teach you that?

UPDATE: As I wrote this, a number of Code Pink protesters broke into the Republican National Convention to disrupt the proceedings. They interrupted Senator McCain’s speech and were promptly removed from the area.

Q.E.D.

The Democrats are using the phrase often attributed to Queen Victoria, “We are not amused.” What is the cause? A $3 bill that was up for sale at the Evergreen State Fair’s Republican Party booth. Here is part of the report from the local KOMO news:

A $3 bill has both Democrats and Republicans talking.

The controversial bill features Barack Obama wearing a headdress, propelling a widespread myth that he’s Muslim. Some call it a joke, but not everyone’s laughing.

Carol Ronken is, in fact fuming over the bill which she found at the Evergreen State Fair’s Republican Party booth.

“It’s racist. It’s disgusting,” she said.

On the bill the words “da man” are printed under his face, perpetuating the myth. Obama is, in fact, a Christian.

Uh, using “da man” perpetuates the myth that Obama is Muslim? I don’t know who wrote this story on the KOMO staff, but that’s just silly. I also find it silly that Carol Ronken got her undies in a bunch over the bill. How exactly is it racist? It has a picture of Obama on it, but that doesn’t make it racist, or all photos of the Obamessiah would also be racist. Is it the headdress, making a satirical link between the Muslim-born, Muslim-raised, Muslim-taught, but now Christian Obama and Islam that is racist? If that’s it, please explain how Islam has become a race.

But who is this concerned citizen, Carol Ronken? Could she be an impartial observer concerned about the tone in this Presidential race? The article doesn’t identify her party affiliation, but when the article quotes Geri Modrell later on, it clearly identifies her as the Republican county chair. So who is Carol Ronken? The article doesn’t say, but a quick search shows that she is the chair of the Stanwood Democrats. So of course she is upset about someone mocking The One.

Waaah freakin’ waaah.

Come on, folks! Making fun of our political leaders is a long-held tradition. There are plenty of bumper stickers mocking President Bush and other Republicans, and I remember seeing $3 bills for President Clinton and Senator Clinton. Here in the States, we don’t have touch-me-not royals who must never be mocked by the plebes. Instead we have the freedom of speech that allows us, among other things, to make fun of our political leaders–from the noblest to the most infamous.

I see your disgust, Carol Ronken, and I trump it with the First Amendment. Go peddle your imitation of Queen Victoria elsewhere.

I was listening to the radio the other day, and I heard that the city of Bountiful, Utah, has banned visible tattoos on city employees:

City officials have banned employees from having tattoos in easily visible places in an effort to make sure employees put city government in a good light.

The policy mirrors that of the Los Angeles Police Department, which bans tattoos on the face, neck, head and hands.

Several people, including the show hosts, were questioning the legality of this rule claiming that it violates the freedom of speech of the people tattooed.

Baloney.

Accepting for the nonce that a tattoo is “speech,” it is well within the rights of the city, or any employer, to set a dress code for its employees. If you are unwilling to abide by the dress code of a company, why apply for a job there? But the city dress code doesn’t violate the free speech of tattooed people. They are free to tattoo themselves any place they like, but they do not possess a corresponding right to be hired by the city.

But the talk show hosts and some of the callers are not the only people who don’t understand the freedom of speech. A large segment of the U.S. population is equally ill-informed, as exposed by a recent Rasmussen poll:

Nearly half of Americans (47%) believe the government should require all radio and television stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary, but they draw the line at imposing that same requirement on the Internet. Thirty-nine percent (39%) say leave radio and TV alone, too.

It’s obvious from this poll that 47% of Americans surveyed don’t understand the part of the First Amendment dealing with speech, so here it is: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …” Congress had already attempted to abridge this with the Fairness Doctrine, but it was finally removed in the ’80s. As it was abolished, the FCC recognized that the Fairness Doctrine succeeded in limiting speech, not enhancing it.

If Congress were to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine as these 47% think they should, it would be a clear case of Congress making a law abridging the freedom of speech and of the press. After all, the owners and operators of the radio and television stations would no longer have the freedom to plan their own show lineups. They would have to obey the law telling them how to run their stations.

The report goes on to explain that 31% of those surveyed believe that internet sites should also be balanced. That would mean that for every right-leaning conservative piece I post on my site, I would have to allow an equal-length left-leaning liberal piece to be posted.

But I won’t allow that.

You see, it’s my site, my code, and other than the occasional posts by my wife, it’s my opinions. If people disagree with my opinions, they are just as free to get their own sites and publish their own opinions. My freedom of speech on my site does not limit the freedom of others to voice their own opinions on their own sites. But once the government steps in and mandates that I must allow someone else equal time on my site just to provide “balance” to my opinions, then the government is limiting my freedom to post what I will on my site.

If the government were to force me to obey the Fairness Doctrine, I would instead choose to close down the blog. The end result of “fairness” and “balance” would be less free speech, not more, but I have to believe that is the real and unspoken goal of the proponents of the Fairness Doctrine. And that is why I believe that too many Americans don’t understand the true nature of freedom of speech.

The right of freedom of speech is protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and it’s pretty easy to understand. Nestled in with the rest of the rights explained in the First Amendment is the following: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” U.S. citizens aren’t alone in this right. Chinese citizens also have freedom of speech, as outlined in Article 35 of the Chinese constitution: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” I would say that the hundreds dead at Tiananmen Square reveal the truth about Chinese freedom of speech, assembly, and demonstration. But that’s what you get when you have a “living Constitution” that means whatever the current government says it means. In the Constitution of the European Union, freedom of speech is covered by Article II, 71: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.”

Well, not any more:

European Union on Thursday made inciting racism and xenophobia crimes throughout its 27 member states in a landmark decision tempered by caveats to appease free speech concerns.

The new deal specifies one- to three-year prison terms be available for incitement to violence or hatred “against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin”.

That could include the sending of “tracts, pictures or other material.”

Germany has long held a tight rein on free speech. After World War II, it became illegal to publicly display the swastika or deny the Holocaust. I can understand the Germans’ loathing of Nazism, but I have a stronger love of free speech than my loathing of mass-murdering Nazi poopheads. I prefer to allow neo-Nazis to spout their hate and let people clearly see them for the wild-eyed fruitbars that they truly are. As I see it, once we start to block the political speech of people we dislike, how long will it be until our own political speech is blocked because someone else doesn’t like it? But the new rule in the EU goes even further than limiting incitement of violence or hatred:

The text also notes that “member states may choose to punish only conduct which is either carried out in a manner likely to disturb public order or which is threatening, abusive or insulting.”

Did you catch that last bit? It is now illegal to insult someone in the EU. No more Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in the EU. And for that matter, no more Jay Leno, Dave Letterman, or any other comedian who might make other people feel bad. I think a case could be made that just watching Rosie O’Donnell on “The View” is abusive and insulting, but since she doesn’t live in the EU, Rosie is safe for now.

Do you think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill over the phrase “threatening, abusive or insulting”? Take a look at this relevant tidbit from Denmark:

Three Danish lawmakers, all members of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, have been reported to police for making remarks comparing Muslim women’s headscarves with swastikas.

The three were reported by the Documentation and Advisory Center on Racial Discrimination, Line Boegsted, spokeswoman of the Copenhagen-based non-governmental organization, said today in a telephone interview.

“The comments they’ve made were deeply unpleasant,” Boegsted said. “The question is now if they also were illegal.”

Parliament member Soeren Krarup was cited in daily Politiken and other Danish media on April 18 as saying that Muslim women’s headscarves, like Nazi Germany’s swastikas, symbolized totalitarian repression.

Welcome to the new, progressive European Union, where freedom of speech is a thing of the past.

The media dogs have been barking around Don Imus for some insulting comments he made about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. The negative attention has been sufficient to cause Imus to lose his job at CBS. I’ve not written anything about it so far because I neither listen to Imus nor look to him for information, so normally I wouldn’t care what he said in any case. But his comments have garnered nation-wide attention, and that in itself makes the situation newsworthy.

The First Amendment says the following about free speech: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” As I read it, Congress is forbidden from telling people what they can or cannot say — and that includes over the airways. A strict Constitutional interpretation of the freedom of speech would prohibit Congress from forbidding or fining people for saying @#$% or &^%$ or even *@%! on the radio or TV, making the old Monty Python song potentially acceptable for airplay. Speaking of what constitutes “permitted speech,” I heard the following sound bite by Al Sharpton on the radio this morning:

It is our feeling that this is only the beginning. We must have a broad discussion on what is permitted and not permitted in terms of the airwaves.

That quote is on the Drudge Report, but interestingly enough, a search for this quote isn’t currently pulling up much. But I find this comment of greater concern to Americans than Imus’ obnoxious comments were. You may say that Imus’ comments were bigoted and inexcusable, and I will agree with you wholeheartedly. But his comments are the act of one man embarrassing himself on the national airwaves by sharing his bigoted feelings with the world. It is his right to say what he wants, even if those words end up getting him in trouble. Sharpton’s comment, by comparison, is frightening in that it represents the thoughts of a single man who believes it is his privilege to dictate to all Americans which thoughts and opinions can and cannot be voiced in public. That is not his role. As much as I am disgusted by comments of the kind that put Imus in such hot water, I’d rather allow him the protections of free speech — even if it means he abuses that protection by spouting inanities — than live in Sharpton’s world of “permitted and not permitted” speech.

The thing I find most interesting about this story is that the media is nipping around Imus’ ankles and barking about his statement, while at the same time giving a pass to others who continue to make far more hateful, misogynistic and racist statements than Imus did. Since Al Sharpton has insisted on inserting himself into this fray, I’ll mention one example of his own race-baiting rhetoric: Tawana Brawley. Where is the media’s condemnation of Sharpton? Where is their outrage at the bigoted statements of Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson? People like Sharpton, Jackson, and numerous rap artists receive a pass from the media, but that same media will continue to bark around Imus for days if not weeks. When I see the media act this way, I am reminded of a particular conversation between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

The point of this conversation was that guard dogs don’t bark when their master is about. Who, then, is the media’s master?

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” – First Amendment

You’d think that with language as clear as that, Congress would not meddle with freedom of speech, but you’d be wrong. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is planning on resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine of decades past. In a nutshell, the Fairness Doctrine says that radio stations can’t host one political side without giving equal time to the other. That’s only fair, don’t you agree? We don’t want our media to become too lopsided, do we?

Regardless of how you wrap this idea up in nice platitudes, the fact remains that the Fairness Doctrine is Congress making laws restricting and abridging the freedom of speech. If a radio station wants to play all-conservative or all-liberal shows 24/7, that decision should be up to the owners of the station, not Congress.

Besides, why should we grant Congress any say in the playlists of radio stations? Is there any indication the Fairness Doctrine worked before? The Fairness Doctrine caused radio stations to languish during the ’70s and early ’80s. Two things fueled the resurgence of AM radio: the removal of the restrictive Fairness Doctrine in 1987, and the subsequent ascendancy of the Rush Limbaugh show made possible by the vanished Fairness Doctrine. (Whether you like Rush or hate him, he did usher in a new public interest in the talk radio format.) But with the near-complete dominance of talk radio by conservative shows, it is no wonder that the newly-elected Democrat Congress is drooling over the prospect of reanimating the corpse of the old Fairness Doctrine.

You won’t hear Democrats admit openly that they want to oppress conservative talk radio, although that is their goal. Instead you will hear them talk about how unfair it is that only one side of the political spectrum is represented on mostly-conservative talk radio. Liberal talk shows have not met much success in the free marketplace, so Democrats want to try to level the playing field by shackling conservative shows. Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers, call your office.

It’s only fair to follow three hours of the conservative Rush Limbaugh show with three hours of the liberal Randi Rhodes show, right? Well, it depends on what your definition of “equal” is. To be really equal, the three hours of any conservative show with a ten-point market share must be followed by thirty hours of any liberal show with a one-point market share. 3 x 10 = 30 x 1, right?  So everyone is happy and everything is fair in the topsy-turvy world of Democrats. Well, except the listeners, the hosts, and the radio station owners who are getting shafted.

Feel free to send Rep. Kucinich a note reminding him that the First Amendment phrase “Congress shall make no law” applies to him and to the Fairness Doctrine. I am.

In the United States, unless you have signed some sort of housing covenant which states otherwise, you are free to paint your home any way you like. I’ve seen a home painted black, red, and yellow; another painted pink; a third painted pink with purple polka dots; and a fourth done in an eye-blindingly bright blue. My good friends’ home is painted in “Chatroom” with “Hardware” accents, and “Enigma” on the door — not that the names give you any clue what these colors are. (It looks good.) Why, painting your home is as American as apple pie and all that, right? A veritable cornerstone of an American’s right to free expression. So where does some judge in Connecticut get off telling a guy how to paint his home?

Well, like most things in life, there’s a little bit more to the story.

You see, Christopher Seekins was arrested last year for possession of about 100 marijuana plants. I’m not sure what it was that tipped off the cops, but I imagine it’s some evil government surveillance satellite scanning people’s traffic patterns to discover who makes late-night trips to pick up munchies. When confronted with the evidence of his crime, Dr. Richard Kimble’s response was, “It wasn’t me. It was the one-armed man!” Wait, wrong set of notes. Ah, here it is: Christopher Seekins’ response was that the pot was really “hemp,” and that he was using it as part of his research project. Sure. I think I liked the first bit of fiction better.

Protesting his arrest, Seekins proceeded to paint some marijuana leaves on his house, along with the word “hemp.” Townspeople complained because Seekins’ home is visible from the main street. If we just left the story at this point, Seekins could still claim that it was within his right of free expression to paint his home as he saw fit, and he’d be right. The State could have given him some jail time for drug possession, but since Seekins pleaded guilty, the court’s decision was to give him three years’ probation with the following stipulations: no more illegal drug use or possession, 300 hours of community service, painting over the leaves on his house, and not painting them back on. While the ABC News story doesn’t mention it, I’m sure the judge whispered in Seekins’ ear that he could either willingly paint over his home and enjoy probation, or he could make a stand on his free speech rights and enjoy some time in jail.

In the unlikely event that I were in Seekins’ place, I think I would make the same decision.