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In Defense Of Hate Speech

But Rodney, how can you defend their right to free speech? They are using that free speech to call for genocide. Surely you can’t be supportive of that!

Yesterday I talked about Nazis and racism. I explained that as distasteful as their beliefs are, supporting their right to protest does not make me a racist. (Sorry Kids, Apparently Daddy Is A Racist.) Today, I’m going to discuss a little more exactly why I support their right to protest.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.

– United States Constitution Amendment 1

There’s a lot packed into the first amendment. I’m going to skip the religion, press and petition for grievances, and instead focus on two part: freedom of speech and peaceable assembly.

Let me get one thing out of the way first: I find the Nazism, fascism and racism as despicable. I find nothing redeeming in any of the ideologies. I think those who knowing follow any of the three are typically lacking the mental capacity to understand the degraded position they are supporting. Racism? Bad. Nazism? Bad. Fascism? Bad. No “look at both sides.” No, “All opinions count.” Nope. They are bad.

So, if I believe that, why would I argue for the ability of these hate monger to speak or assemble? Didn’t we fight a war to rid of Nazism? No, we did not. The Second World War wasn’t an effort to kill Nazis. It was an effort to make Nazis stop killing others. And as soon as the war was over, we immediately stopped killing Nazis.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

I’m not sure we believe this any more. I’ve seen many people prepared to answer insults with fists; hateful rhetoric with violence. In those cases, the person using their fists and violence is wrong.

But, Rodney, Hate Speech isn’t protected by the first amendment.

Actually, it is. According to Politfact (and a whole bunch of lawyer types, and the Supreme Court) there is no Hate Speech exception for the first amendment. So, does that mean anyone can say anything and get away with it? Nope. There are three exceptions to the free speech protections in the first amendment.


You cannot make statements designed to create panic. The classic, “Yelling FIRE in a crowded theater” is not free speech. Hate speech is not designed to create a panic.


You cannot slander private individuals. For example, I write a column for my local paper. If I write a column accusing my neighbor of having an affair I do not have protection for that. However, if I say that the Mayor is having an affair, I do have a case for free speech since the Mayor is a public figure.


Okay, here we go. This is the one that we can get the Hate Groups on, right? After all, the Nazis want to exterminate entire groups of people, specifically jews and gays, although anyone with is “different” is libel to be targeted. The KKK wants to kill blacks. Isn’t that a threat? No. Not legally. A threat has to be an actual threat and has to have at least a chance of happening. If I threaten someone who lives across the country and I say, “I’m gonna head over to your house and beat you to a pulp,” a court would probably find that my threat was mere hyperbole. But, if I told my neighbor I’m gonna head over to your house and beat you to a pulp, the courts would probably find that it was a credible threat.

If a group avoids these three areas, their speech is protected.

But, what about lies? The 1st Amendment doesn’t cover lies, does it?

This might be unpleasant to hear, but lying is not illegal. If you are not selling a product, you can lie and enjoy the protection of the 1st Amendment. Of course, if you slander or libel someone, then you forfeit the right to free speech.

A friend suggest that the founding fathers didn’t have a good idea of the types of hate speech we would have to deal with. My friend suggested that maybe the Constitutional protection of free speech is really an idea that is not longer relevant. I disagree. I think the founders understood the idea of a changing landscape and included the freedom of speech in the first amendment on purpose.

One more thought on the first amendment. It only constrains the government, not private businesses. If you are in Walmart and you are dissing on the store, they can ask you to shut up or leave. They are not violating your first amendment rights. They are exercising their own rights.

So, yes, I will defend the right of the KKK and the Nazis and the gays and jews and christians and muslims and atheists and every other American citizen to peaceably assemble and share any views they want. We cannot and should not attempt to legislate these groups out of the public square.

It is the protection of our freedoms that makes us unique in the world.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Sorry Kids, But Apparently Daddy Is A Racist

I avoid politics in this space. Y’all know that. I figure there are plenty of places on the internet you can engage in political discussions. I’m surprised you follow my ramblings about camping and business, I can’t imagine anyone is interested in my opinions on politics.

So, this isn’t a political post. But, by the end of it, some people will think it is. By the end there may be people who are convinced that I’m not a very nice person.

If you have access to a news source, you’ve seen the horrific events that have transpired over the past week. Especially, the death of a young woman in Charlottesville for standing up to Nazis. I’m going to start by saying something that we can all agree on.

Nazism and it’s evil twin racism, are despicable belief systems. They have no place in our modern society. Those who would knowingly embrace either of these twin evils are worthy of our contempt. It’s horrible. And there is zero excuse for it.

BTW, if you do not agree with the above statement, please stop following my blog. Okay, are we clear? Nazis are bad. Racism is bad.

I have a question for you: do you believe me when I type the above statement?

Oh sure, you do right now, but by the end of this post, some of you will not. Some of you will be convinced I’m either lying or in denial, or just plain confused. Here’s why: I support the right of the Nazis to hold their march. I support their right to assemble. And I support their right to spew their hateful rhetoric to anyone who will listen.

But, Rodney, how can you support Nazis?

I don’t.

But, you just said you support their right to march and assemble and speak.

Of course I do.

There is a difference between supporting someone’s rights and supporting that person and their beliefs. We just had an election here in Utah. Three men were running to represent the Republicans in the race for the U.S. Congress. I supported the right of all three to run. I only supported one of the candidates. In the fall, the winner from last night, John Curtis will run against a Democrat in the general election. I fully support that Democrat’s right to run for office. In fact, if someone were to suggest that we not allow the Democrat candidate to run, I would protest vehemently.

So, you support the Democrat?

Not at all. I’m a conservative and I like the Republican who will run, and I’ll be supporting him.

There is a difference between supporting someone’s rights and supporting that person and their beliefs. So, let’s get back to the Nazis and the KKK.

I had a discussion with a group of friends online who were convinced that Nazis didn’t deserve to live. They honestly suggested that Nazis be killed because the Nazis wanted to kill jews, gays, and others. The people I was talking to happened to be gay and transgender. They would absolutely be on the “don’t deserve to live” list for any Nazi party.

So, let me get this straight, we want to kill Nazis because it’s okay to kill someone if you disagree strongly enough with their beliefs?

My friends failed to see the irony of suggesting the use of the exact same tactic they were protesting. The Nazis and the KKK deserve each other. And when they get together in big groups, it’s that much easier to keep track of them. But, I explained to my friends that killing people because of their beliefs is exactly what fascists do.

So, we should just sit by and let them kill people, like Heather Heyer? Or assault people like Deandre Harris?

Not at all. When people use violence or the threat of violence to attempt to impose their beliefs on others, they are committing crimes and they forfeit the right to protest. Heather’s murderer and Deandre’s attackers deserved to go to jail. But, that doesn’t mean that the Nazis and the KKK should be silenced.

It actually pains me to type this, but we should do nothing to prevent them from marching assembling and speaking. Not a thing. In fact, let the world see what idiots they truly are. Name and shame them on social media and let their employers fire them. But, don’t stop them from speaking. Not in America.

If freedom of speech doesn’t exist for all of us, it doesn’t exist for any of us.

This is the point at which some of my readers will start to doubt my unequivocal condemnation of racism and bigotry. Those are statements that will get you labeled an appeaser, or worse an actual racist yourself. Many people will simply assume that if you are defending the free speech rights of racists and fascists, it’s because, you know. . .you’re probably one too.

It’s hard to defend against a charge of racism. “I’m not racist,” I could say. And that’s exactly what a lot of racists feel. I could tell you that my best friend is black (which he is) and that I’m friends with the founder of the nationwide black advocacy group, United Front, and they don’t think I’m a racist. But, then, lots of people will say, “Some of my best friends are black.”

But, you know who else doesn’t think I’m a racist? The seven of my thirteen children who are black. My three Asian kids don’t think I’m racist either. And the three white kids don’t think I’m a racist.

So, as we continue to have the dialogue over race, and free speech, and hate speech and Nazis, Let’s not become so anxious to destroy those with whom we disagree that we commit the same sins that we reject in them. Our country is strong enough to endure those groups with anti-social, or even hateful views.

I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death, you’re right to say it.

This should be our mantra.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Pick It Up Tomorrow

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Music Review: RIGHT ON TIME by Rachel Solomon

I normally don't do music reviews. In fact, I think this is the first. However, I'm making an exception for Rachel Solomon's "RIGHT ON TIME." Solomon was a performer on the Oosterdam cruise ship that my family was on last month. My family was taking a once in a lifetime trip to Alaska. My mother and stepfather go on a lot of cruises. This time, they were joined by my wife and me, my brothers and their partners, and my sister. Several times we found ourselves in the piano bar listening to Solomon and her playing partner, Pierson Keating. One night as they were trying to figure out how to close the show, Keating offered a suggestion,

Rachel, why don't you give us a song off your CD?

With a little coaxing from the audience she gave us a stripped down version of the title track, Right On Time. I enjoyed Solomon's performance so much that I asked her for a copy of her CD. You can find it on iTunes here. Solomon is obviously very talented and highly entertaining when performing live, but hearing the nuanced harmonies and vocalizations from her studio album was even better.

Solomon composed the music and wrote the lyrics for the five songs on her CD. And while it's a short play list, it manages to be very eclectic. If there's a single theme from the album, it's the idea that she, and by extension, all of us, are on an unfinished journey. It's a journey with bold beginning, as described in "Can I Come Back Home." But, also a journey of true sadness, "Baltimore," and love lost, "Be My Valentine." She ends the CD with the title track, "Right On Time." And it neatly bookmarks the opening song, "I Mess Up Too."

We are none of us perfect, but we need to trust that life is moving at the right speed and things will come to us, "Right on Time."


For anyone who has ever suffered through Imposter Syndrome, I Mess Up Too is written with you in mind. We see our own faults and failings even while recognizing that others might not.

Who among us hasn't looked back and realized that we are not where we thought we would be by the time our "ten year reunion is coming up"? By bracketing the song with that line at the beginning and end, it puts the entire song into a wistful thinking context. No, she's not really wanting to go home, but it would be nice to be able to run back to the safety and simplicity of childhood.

This is the best song on the album. A tragic love song for a "city in pain." The death of Freddy Gray while in police custody is the backdrop. Solomon's vocals are at their best and the lyrics are just sparse enough to tell the story while also fueling our imagination. "The death of a man named Gray." She manages to make us weep for a city that many of us have never seen. Without casting judgement, she leads us on a musical tour through a city being ripped apart. Haunting.

I might have misunderstood this song. On its surface, it's a playful tune about Valentine's Day. But, after listening to the lyrics, it takes on a decidedly "fatal attraction" tone. It's easy to envision our lovelorn protagonist stalking her victim and tying him up in the basement "for just one night." Solomon's strong vocals and piano playing are on full display here. It might be a slightly creepy journey, but we are going to be humming the soundtrack for awhile.

The musical ride that Solomon takes us on over the course of the first four songs, has a fitting ending with the concluding track. The song explains that if fame comes, it will be at the right time. If love enters our lives, it will be at the right time. We cannot force the schedule. It's better, best even, to be comfortable with where we are and wait for what life has to bring us, and trust that it will arrive "Right On Time."

My rating
3 out of 4 stars

You can find more by Rachel Solomon at her website

Currently, it's one of the 4 albums I listen to in my car.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Leading Boy Scouts To Their Death

Jeffery Julian is dead. He was 17 years old. He didn't die from drugs, or alcohol. He was in good health, a football player at Salem, UT High School. He wasn't engaged in any risky behavior. He died simply because he took a hike in the mountains last week. His scout troop hiked up into the High Unitas in Northern Utah. He most likely died of altitude sickness.

Sarah Beadle is also dead. She was 38. She wasn't a Boy Scout, of course. She was an emergency room doctor. She also went for a hike. She went with her daughter and nephew on a hike in Grand Canyon National Park two weeks ago. She died within 3/4 of a mile of Phantom Ranch in the park. She ran out of water and got lost. the children survived.

Three sisters are in the hospital, a 7 and an 8 year old in Salt Lake City and a two year old in Evanston, WY. They were fishing in the High Unitas. The storm came on them quickly and before they could get to a less exposed area, the lightning hit. All three are expected to recover.

Jhonatan Gonzalez considers himself lucky to be alive. Jhonatan is a 40 year old man from Hawaii who nearly died along with several other hikers in Zion's National Park in Southern Utah last week. They were hiking in an area of the park called "The Narrows." It's a slot canyon with a gentle river in the bottom and sheer sandstone walls on both sides. He, along with several other hikers were caught in a flash flood. They formed a human chain across the waist high water to help each other to safety.

Pay attention to this next part. If you do it wrong you might die.

I joined the Boy Scouts when I was eleven years old. I went on to get my Eagle and stayed involved with the troop until I turned 18. I never once remember a scout leader telling me that the activity we were about to engage in might result in my death. And I went on a lot of campouts.

I'm an Assistant Scoutmaster in our troop. We are a very active troop. We go camping eleven months each year. I use the above phrase with our boys at least 3-4 times per year. The boys hear it a lot, but they also take it seriously. See, in September we will take our boys on a overnight backpacking trip to the High Unitas. In June we took them to Zion's and hiked The Narrows. We don't hike the Grand Canyon, but we do plenty of hiking in Utah's canyons and desert.

My sons are 14 and 17. They no longer go on campouts with me and the "younger" scouts. But, their groups are equally active. And face similar dangers. As I was reading the online comments about Sarah Beadle, the ER doctor who died in Arizona, I saw several people questioning why she would even be out there. It was 100 degrees that day with little shade on the trail she was hiking.

Why do we put ourselves and our boys at risk? While we do everything we can to train our boys and make sure they are prepared for the wilderness, the fact remains that we are taking them into a dangerous situation. Jeffery Julian, the young man who died of altitude sickness, did everything right. He followed all the rules of safe hiking. And while the High Unitas are about 7,000 feet above sea level, his home town of Salem is 4600 feet. And, as an athlete, he was acclimatized to the elevation.

No leader wants to lose a boy. We had a case several years ago where a young man on a winter camp got frostbite and nearly died of hypothermia. We scaled back snow camps for several years. We do everything to reduce the risk, but we cannot lower it to zero. Is any risk too high, if the result might be death?

I've watched my five sons go through the scouting program. We do the same campouts at the same time each year. I watch 12 year olds struggle to make it up the trail. I've seen my share of tears as boys think the task is greater than they can manage. A year later, I watch those same boys lead the group, pushing us all to keep up with them. It's not just their bodies that get stronger, it's the knowledge that they can do hard things. And they know they can, not because we tell them, but because they experience it.

The second reason we take our boys out into the wilderness is to help them understand that life is full of challenges. But, if you are prepared you don't need to fear. Again, watching my sons, I'm gratified when I see them tackling difficult challenges. They are more confident in school and in their daily lives.

Thirdly, they learn that actions have consequences. We would never intentionally put the boys at risk. But, when we tell them that they need to bring enough water, and they run out, they quickly learn that their choices and their actions have an immediate impact on their lives. With water, because it's so precious and essential, we, as leaders, always bring extra. But, the boys have to come and ask for it. They learn the value of planning ahead.

Every month, I consider the difference in my own camping experiences growing up in Western Washington and the experience that our scouts have camping in the desert. It makes me extra careful to ensure I'm teaching them the skills they need to survive. And I remind myself that I need to pay attention. If I do this part wrong we might die.

Below are links to the stories about people I mentioned above.

Jeffery Julian

Sarah Beadle

Three sisters

Jhonatan Gonzalez

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

That Doesn’t Go There – The Long Delayed Picture Essay

This is the final installment in a multipart post about some minor car trouble that I had a couple of weeks ago that involved my Honda Civic, Bennion Creek and a REALLY muddy road.

The road was really muddy. My plan was to drive until I couldn't go anymore and then pull over to the side and hike.

Well, I wasn't wrong. I mean, I did end up on the side of the road. But, that really doesn't go there. And I did start walking. (I wasn't injured.)

I left a note just in case someone came by. I didn't want them worrying I might be trapped in the car, or wandered off dazed and confused.

It may not look like it, but that is a $150/hour professional tow truck. If you slide off a mountain road, your options are limited, and Andy is one of the few people who will even take the job. ($300 to pull it out.)

He anchored his gear to a tree. It was still tough going and we weren't certain the tree wasn't going to come over on top of us.

It doesn't look too bad. I drove it down to the highway. Andy towed it to Pleasant Grove for me. (Another $200, which was a discount because he was already involved.)

It could be worse. I'm not saying it's great, but considering it went swimming a little, this isn't terrible.

The plastic cover isn't your bumper. This is the bumper. Its job is to take the brunt of the force when you hit something. It did its job. It has to be replaced.

That's the condenser. It's what helps the air conditioning work. Yeah, it's not salvageable either. The radiator had to be replaced as well.

The wheels had to come off, but here we see the condenser and the radiator back on.

The bumper went back on with just a little bit of help from a crowbar and a drill. The frame, fortunately, wasn't bent. . .much.

It's going to look better when it's had a shower, and it will always have a scar there on the driver's side. But, considering where it started from, I was pleased.

Here are the other parts of the story

I'm Okay. I'm Okay. . .I'm Not Okay (Sliding off the road)

If The Good Lord is Willing And the Creek Don't Rise (Yup, it ended up in the creek)

It's What We Do (Okay, NOW what do I do? I figure out how to get out of it)

Maxim 32: Anything is Amphibious If You Can Get It Back Out Of The Water (a hat tip to my friend Howard Tayler, who wrote the headline)
That Doesn't Go There – The Long Delayed Picture Essay

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Telling Stories…And Trying Not To Lie

I'm a writer. It's not what I do, or how I earn my living. It's what I am. It took me a long time to realize that. Maybe someday I'll write novels or screenplays. Or maybe these few electronic scribblings will be the extent of my reach. Regardless, I write. It's how I process.

We live in the social media age. As I type these words, I'm very aware of the fact that there are people, real people with lives, and jobs and bills to pay who take time out to read them. That fact never ceases to amaze me. And I would be lying if I said the craving that vicarious attention isn't part of why I write.

A friend commented that this blog will make a great journal someday. He was wrong. Because no matter how good a writer I am, the stories that I choose to tell here are for public viewing. I don't share the deeper stories. I firmly believe that everyone gets to tell their own story. I have ten kids who are adopted from all over the world. If you ask one of my children a question about her sibling, she will say, "Go ask her yourself. It's her story."

And that's why I find myself this week dreading the keyboard. I enjoy the process of writing. I enjoy the storytelling, and I think I'm a good enough writer to protect people's privacy and still tell a compelling story.

But not this week.

This week, I've had to admit that I'm just a hack with a social media account. I have family, some close, some distant, who are going to through incredibly hard things. Life and death, law and order, never going to be the same again things. And I can't find the stories. I can't, or maybe I don't want to, find the narrative that shares a message and still protects privacy.

I'm a writer who can't write.

That's silly, Rodney. You're writing right now.

Maybe. But, I'm not really writing. I haven't really written for days. I'm simply typing. The words are mine, but they lack fire and emotion. There's no story.

Maybe someday I'll tell the stories from this week. And they are big enough that a hundred lifetimes couldn't erase them from my memory. Maybe the emotion has simply gotten in the way and I'll soon find the string that will unravel the tangled mess that is my thoughts right now. Maybe.

Until then, I'll type, but I can't promise it will be worth reading.

I feel like I've used up all my words.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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