Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pulling the Plug on Beck: We've Got the Power!

A blogger friend who uses the pen name, Octopus, posted a piece on February 14 with the title, Help Pull the Plug on Glenn Beck, in which he proposed that it is time to "...serve notice to Fox News that partisan hate speech has no place in a free society. The strongest message you can send is to vote your pocketbook. Write letters to Fox News advertisers; tell them you will no longer patronize their products and services; and keep boycotting sponsors of Fox News until these outrageous partisan witch-hunts have stopped. Removing Glenn Beck from the airwaves will save lives."

What Octo proposes is not an attack on freedom of speech. The 1st amendment provides that Congress may not pass laws that restrict freedom of speech. 

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 a redress of grievances.

The key word is Congress. The 1st amendment has nothing to do with citizens critiquing the speech of other citizens. Nor does freedom of speech mean that a business, corporation, or any non-governmental entity has to support any particular ideology by providing a platform for that ideology. In other words, the government cannot silence Beck but public will certainly can without there being any violation of his 1st amendment rights.

Beck is free to express his ideas and we're free to say that we think that his ideas are full of crap. No network is under any obligation to provide any person with a public forum to express his/her ideas.

The following is from Octo at The Swash Zone (republished here with his permission):

As part of an ongoing effort to pressure Fox News into pulling the plug on the Glenn Beck Show, here is a standard petition letter addressed to Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. Please feel free to copy the text of this letter and paste it into your letterhead - adjusting type size and font style as needed (11 or 12 points should suffice):
Roger Ailes
Chairman and CEO, Fox News Channel
News Corporation
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10036

Dear Mr. Ailes:

After the shooting rampage in Tucson that left six people dead and thirteen injured, you offered this appeal for civility: “I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast.

Weeks after Tucson, nothing has changed.  Glenn Beck has turned up the volume on partisan hate speech.  The poisoned atmosphere unleashed by Glenn Beck means any citizen - Democrat, Independent, or Republican - can be defamed in public and targeted for persecution.  Beck’s messages provoke unstable persons to act on impulse, and events have shown that violent rhetoric leads to violent acts:

There is no plausible deniability that can wipe the blood off Beck’s hands or absolve the Fox News Channel of responsibility for reckless incitement.  Shooting sprees, murder, malicious defamations and infamous provocations … these have no place in a free society.  When toxic television threatens public safety, all citizens of all persuasions have grounds for alarm.

Glenn Beck has crossed boundaries that should never be crossed.  It is time to pull the plug on the Glenn Beck Show before more people are terrorized, injured and killed.

Sincerely yours,

(your name and signature)
The letter is short enough to fit on a single page (word count=265).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Conservative Inconsistency or Big Government Is Fine When We Say So

Every time the opponents of big government, aka Republicans and Tea Party members, weigh in on issues of personal choice such as abortion or whom to marry, I marvel at how conveniently they ignore their own anti-government interference rhetoric when it suits them to do so.

Last week, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) introduced the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." The bill has 173 sponsors, most of whom are Republicans. 

The proposed legislation is an attempt to further restrict taxpayer funding for abortions. Current law already restricts the use of federal funding for abortions but includes exemptions when rape or incest is involved. Smith's proposed bill, which Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) has labeled a top priority in the new Congress, limits the rape exemption to "forcible rape." 

Those of you under the age of 35 may not recall the days when simply saying "no" wasn't enough to constitute rape. This bill would turn back the clock. There is no definition in federal law for "forcible rape." Under current law, rape isn't defined in terms of force or lack of force but based on consent or lack of consent. Did the victim consent or was the victim capable of meaningful consent? This proposed legislation would rule out the exemptions that allow federal assistance for abortions when the individual was a victim of statutory rape, or drunk, drugged, or otherwise impaired because technically, such rapes aren't "forcible."

This attempt to redefine rape is ludicrous. What does forcible rape mean?  Is there such a thing as "cooperative rape" or maybe "willing rape"? Rape by definition is non-consensual. The most obvious non-consent is when force is used, but having sex with someone who is unable to consent because of drug or alcohol impairment, or who is still in the caught up in the lack of judgment of youth, is still rape. The impact of this bill on current state criminal rape laws and statutory rape laws could possibly undermine existing laws to the extent that the crime of rate becomes even more difficult to prosecute. Already it's the only criminal charge where the victim is still blamed for possibly causing or inviting the crime.

If I go out to the ATM machine at 3:00 a.m. and someone robs me, whether or not I have a history of making late night trips to the bank is irrelevant to the process of determining the defendant's guilt or innocence. Despite positive changes that limit making the rape victim's character the subject of a a rape trial, there is still far too much leeway to consider the actions and behavior of the victim as a possibly contributory factor and/or evidence that there was no rape. This new nonsense by the GOP is another step down the wrong road.

If these people really are concerned about the well-being of children, why not worry about the ones already present and breathing on their own. According to data from the Census Bureau released in 2009, as of 2008, one in five children in the U.S. live in families below the official poverty level. Research from the Brookings institute predicts that number will rise to one in four by 2012.

Want to do something besides complain? has a petition protesting this bill and urging Congress not to support it. Please take a moment to sign that petition.