One thing I'm in charge of is the Opinion section. I write all those smarmy comments to Mail contributors. I select the Guest Opinions to print when we have space. I make sure Bill Cope's story comes in each week even though he's as regular as a four-bowls-of-bran-a-day kinda guy. Lately, we've been getting all kinds of Guest Opinions that I've been posting to our Web site. Some deal with local issues, others with national topics. Occasionally, I'll see one published in the daily paper that has also been submitted to Boise Weekly. It doesn't bug me. There's little crossover.

One trend I've been noticing is the higher percentage of opinions from the political right. Once upon a time, editorials tended to be penned by intellectuals-most often of the liberal persuasion-upset with the system. These days, they tend to be more emotional, patriotic and are in a "Bill O'Reily/Rush Limbaugh/Michael Savage" type of language. I wouldn't call them propaganda, but they definitely have that feel, as if a committee wrote them.

Letters to the editor and "opinion" pieces sent to newspapers have always had a sense of promotion of an idea, a policy or whatever. With the Internet it's now easy to express oneself. Form letter Web sites conveniently send to your local publications via a handy e-mail list just what you want to say. You have to credit the right for successfully-even masterfully-adapting the tactics of the left to promote their policies. Some would say the left has forgotten these tactics. But what I find fascinating is the attacks on efforts by the left to reassert their voices as part of the political and social debate. Just look at the struggles that Moveon.org has had to deal with.

One recent influx of opinions I've seen is from pro-Flag amendment proponents. It just baffles me to think that so much effort has been put into this. I definitely have my own opinion on this (but you knew that, didn't you?). I think tinkering with the Constitution to protect a symbol is the first step to censoring our society. Doesn't the sacred 10 Commandments-the religious right's operating manual-say something about worshipping false idols? If we go that far, then let's take it to the next level and not allow the Stars and Stripes to be used in advertising, or on clothes, bandannas, or red, white and blue fireworks, because ... that's burning the colors. Let's trademark it.

So where are the counter-opinions from the intellectual left? These days, they seem silenced. It's no wonder. When intellectuals speak their minds, they are often punished by being fired, losing tenure or being attacked personally by opponents. It's often the messenger and not the message which is counter-attacked. Hey, the tactic works.

I think Americans are a stone's throw away from being persecuted for political beliefs. The time is now to speak up. If you don't, you may wake up one day with a gag in your mouth.

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