For over half a century, I’ve been a strong believer in and an ardent practitioner of first amendment protection of freedom of speech. Even when I don’t like or agree with some of the speech.

But “freedom of speech” is not “freedom to lie,” not “freedom to distort” nor “freedom to deliberately frighten.” Thus, two items in the news these days make me boil right down to the soles of my feet!

The first is the “kill granny” crazies deliberately lying about end-of-life discussions with your doctor as the subject appears in one of the five health care overhaul bills being considered in the congress. The scurrilous, outright lies appearing on the Internet and shoveled along by right wing radio make a mockery of free speech.

The only … I repeat … the only “end of life” portion of any of these deals with physician billing under Medicare for conferring with patients when patients request such counseling. The only issue being discussed is whether the professional can bill Medicare for such counseling more than twice in a five year period. Period!

And, again, there are five bills on the table, only one of which will be selected for a final House vote. The subject of such counseling may … or may not … be a part of it.

But if you listen to the gaseous Limbaugh or the flatulent Larson, Reagan, Beck and others, the government is trying to force suicide on the elderly to hold down health care costs! With their approval at best … and their leadership at worst … thousands and thousands of seniors are being needlessly scared. Think not? Talk to AARP offices coast to coast. Talk to some doctors.

The issue of end-of-life care should be on the table because it is in our last days we cost so much to keep alive. Those final months, weeks or even days can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to simply hold off the inevitable another day or two. Or a few hours.

People in Oregon should be smarter than many Americans because we’ve been through this subject many times. Our “Assisted Suicide” law already addresses end-of-life decisions for all sorts of reasons: comfort, personal control, escape from endless pain and suffering, draining family resources, etc.

The lying “kill granny” voices come mostly from that terribly small minority of those scared of government in all its forms and who unreasonably believe they can live without it or the freely and democratically adopted laws we need to survive as a nation.

But there are other voices. The nut broadcasters who give it both air time and, thus, credence. Lying … intentionally lying … is NOT a first amendment guarantee!

The second item deals with the “birthers.” Many of these voices come from the same group as the first item and they are wrong again.

Pres. Obama is a U.S. citizen. A birth certificate copy issued by the State of Hawaii is available on-line. The state’s largest newspaper carried an Aug. 4, 1961, birth announcement as did three others. Congress certified the election and confirmed him. End of non-issue.

To offer credence in any way, no matter how small, to those who spout this lie should be beneath members of congress. But, no. Ten of them are sponsoring a bill to require proof of citizenship before filing for candidacy for public office.

“Not connected,” they say. “Road apples,” says I. The bill will never see the light of day but they’re trying.

Call this garbage what it really is: racism. Many other national political figures have been born outside the continental United States. John McCain, for example, was born in the Panama Canal Zone on a military base. Not even a whisper of challenge to him or any of the others. But they were all white.

Freedom of speech is a marvelous thing. It may be the most important of the amendments. Even when that speech has been offensive or far from our own views and beliefs, it has been the strong glue holding our democracy together for the world to see and envy.

But freedom to obfuscate, distort, mislead, attack without basis or outright lie: NO! Never!

We are living in dangerous economic and life-changing times. We are not just being challenged to get through all this. We are actually facing living our lives under new conditions with many institutions changed completely from what we have known.

These two subjects should be an effrontery to Democrats, Republicans, independents and even non-voters. As Americans first, we need to reaffirm the right to speak freely but to speak the truth.

Neither of these lies meets that test.

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