Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The rest of the sentence

It's hard to believe that our right to free speech is being threatened in this country, isn't it? In fact, part of what worries me is that we have this false sense of security about that right since every politician of every stripe tends to say that they believe in free speech and they want to defend it. They say what we want (and darned well expect) to hear so we have every reason to believe our right to free speech is totally safe.

But it's as if the politicians who support the Fairness Doctrine forgot to finish the sentence. Because their support for this freedom-crushing policy really means "I believe in free speech - unless I disagree with that speech or feel it threatens my ability to get re-elected." I guess they know that voters are smart enough to know the unspoken end of that sentence would not go over so well, so they keep it to themselves. I think that’s too bad. I hope that people who express their full thoughts keep speaking up about the Fairness Doctrine. How better to save free speech than with free speech?!

Submitted by ASO member Jean Card

Monday, January 26, 2009


In his inaugural address, President Obama made a single reference to a topic that, in fairness, was probably on the minds of exactly one of the two million odd attendees. That's the topic of science.

About halfway through ( he declared, "We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost."

President Obama's comment was in reference to the alleged squelching of scientific voices that took place in the Bush Administration. Some abuses were reported. But what was often forgotten in the clamor is that science is a disharmonious and messy business to begin with.

Science is an absolutely critical voice in informing public policy. But scientists rarely sing in harmony on complex subjects. Most of them can't sing at all. Besides, costly and sophisticated equipment sometimes breaks:, computers sometimes forget to carry the one, and samples sometimes spill on the floor. Sometimes, the entire lab has a bad hair day - or week, or month - and there's nothing to do but start again in the morning, or at least find a new lab assistant (this author's lab work was simply atrocious).

Truth - or at least something approximating it - is often found. But it is almost never discovered through a simple presentation of snow-pure data. Rather, truth emerges through the fire of the peer-review process.

The volume of scientist's disharmony only swells when it comes to making policy recommendations, since there are confounding facts, conflicting conclusions, and fightin Ph.D's. (Note that "The Fightin' Ph.D.'s" has never been the name of a university mascot, though one wonders why not. He, or she - no Larry Summers bias here - could be dressed in an oversized lab coat, with a properly stained smock as a cape, and a sharpened slide rule or foam blackberry serving as a baton.) Policymakers must decide their way through those conflicts, even as they are also tied to difficult timelines and funding constraints.

"Hopefully, the Obama administration will restore science to its rightful place where needed. But hopefully it will also recognize that the proper voice of science is of many scientists speaking out, sometimes in unison, but frequently in profound disharmony."

Submitted by The Cappuccino Conservative

Friday, January 23, 2009

Small Business First

You know the old saying "women and children first" – used on sinking ships? I’ve got a new one for these very tough and unpredictable economic times: "small business first!"

I'm not going to comment on big business, but I know that "business" is never a dirty word if it has "small" in front of it. Small businesses are innovators and, collectively, are actually the nation's largest employer. It's bad for the economy when small business is forgotten or gets the short end of the policy stick.

On sinking ships, women and children were saved first because they embodied the future. The same goes for small business. When small business thrives, so does the American economy. Let's call for them to be at the top of the economic agenda!

Submitted by ASO member Jean Card

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wait a minute… what about our ‘right to privacy’?

Americans love the phrase “right to privacy.” We like our privacy, and rightly so. It’s an important part of being free – free from scrutiny, judging and unwanted pressure on our own decisions.

So I hope people find out that the misleadingly-named “Employee Free Choice Act” would actually strip workers of their privacy. Frankly, I have no idea what they mean by “free choice.” Because this legislation would take away workers’ rights to a private ballot – talk about something that is sacred to Americans!

In this country, from the time we are children voting for class president, we value the fact that our vote is SECRET. Our business and no one else’s. That privacy frees us to make the choice we want, without fear of consequence if our vote, ahem, displeases someone else.

Imagine you are a worker at a company where some of your co-workers are talking of unionizing. They feel strongly about it and are pressuring you to vote for the union. You don’t feel a union is necessary and, frankly, you’d rather not have to pay union dues for something you don’t think you need.

Now imagine that your vote on the issue will be out-in-the-open. Fully disclosed. You literally will not be able to keep your opinion to yourself… private. Talk about a violation of a fundamental American right!

It’s like asking for a “show of hands” in front of the bully running for class president.

Submitted by ASO member Jean Card

America has presidents. Not monarchs.

I will be the first to say, straight up, that I like Barack Obama. He seems like a genuinely thoughtful, good person. I am hopeful for the impact his wonderfully calm, optimistic demeanor will have on the nation.

However. I am less comfortable with the tendency for his supporters to speak of him like a messiah. I think is a good man. But he is just a man. I loved watching his Inauguration (one would have to be made of stone to not be moved by the first-black-president fact), but was uncomfortable when the crowds chanted his name. I was glad to hear that a crowd at a ball that night chanted “U.S.A.!” instead of “O-ba-ma!” I mean, I think Barack Obama WANTS us to chant for our country, not for him as a person. Don’t you think? He seems to get that it’s about the country, not him.

Why don’t more regular people get that? And, by the way, both sides of the political aisle are guilty of this over-emphasis on executive power. Think back to the campaign. There was not a single candidate (from primaries on, both D and R) that I can remember who did not use and over-use the phrase “When I’m president, I will… [fill in the blank].”

Every time I heard that, I thought, Oh, will you? How? You won’t be a dictator, right? You might want to check with the Congress. Oh, hang on, you ARE a member of Congress. You should really know that the president can do precious little on his own, with impunity. Come on.

And did or does the press question this false portrayal of omnipotence? Nope. Wish they would. Because putting too much stock in one person – whether for hope or blame – is un-American.

Submitted by ASO member Jean Card.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cyber-Bullying: Free Speech?

America, SpeakOn This...

When does the public good of protecting individuals from harassment outweigh our constitutional right of free speech?

Everyone understands the basics of free speech: you can say what you want, with a few exceptions. You cannot yell “FIRE” in a crowded theatre or “BOMB” at a school or in an airport.

Cyber-bullying is when one person is targeted by another, for on-line or cell phone threats, harassment or humiliation. I assume things said are stronger than ‘hey four-eyes,’ or ‘skinny’ or the like, as we all were familiar with growing up. It’s a judgment call, which is exactly the problem – whose judgment?

After the suicide deaths of two 13-year-olds from this type of harassment, regulation of cyber-bullying became a civic concern, but the most common remedy - placing the responsibility on school districts - is wrong.

At least 13 states have enacted laws having school districts shoulder the burden of policing cyber-bullying, and California is the latest to tackle the problem. All have, because of the age of people involved, usually 13 to 15 year olds, saddled the schools with the responsibility of regulating this behavior. That is a problem.

School districts have no authority to regulate behavior outside of school, where cyber-bullying most often occurs. Schools also have no authority over people who are not a member of that school’s community. In at least one of the cases giving rise to this legislation the bully was an adult and would not have been covered by the legislative remedy. It’s ineffective, wrong, and in and of itself an infringement of First Amendment free speech rights.

Despite good intentions, rules are inconsistent from district to district, educators are sometimes surprisingly uneducated about the technology used by the students, and they have no resources or authority to regulate behavior off school property.

America, SpeakOn this, and tell us what you think….where does free speech end?

Submitted by ASO member Mark Emmert.

Monday, January 19, 2009

e-Government & The Changing Relationship Between Elected Officials And Voters

NPR's The Kojo Nnamdi Show has an excellent piece on how e-government is changing the way grassroots communities communicate with elected officials.

You can listen online here or download a podcast for later.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dying For Freedom Of Speech

A member of the AmericaSpeakOn community wrote us this week to let us know about the life and death of Lasantha Wickrematungo.

Lasantha Wickrematunge, who served as Editor of The Sunday Leader paper in Sri Lanka and wrote about current issues and corruption in Sri Lanka's government, was assassinated earlier this month by gunmen in Colombo, his country's capital.

Before he was killed, Mr. Wickrematunge wrote a last editorial for his paper. Here are the first few paragraphs of the piece:
No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.

I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009 will be The Sunday Leader's 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the greater part of that change has been for the worse. We find ourselves in the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty. Today it is the journalists, tomorrow it will be the judges. For neither group have the risks ever been higher or the stakes lower.

Why then do we do it? I often wonder that. After all, I too am a husband, and the father of three wonderful children. I too have responsibilities and obligations that transcend my profession, be it the law or journalism. Is it worth the risk? Many people tell me it is not. Friends tell me to revert to the bar, and goodness knows it offers a better and safer livelihood. Others, including political leaders on both sides, have at various times sought to induce me to take to politics, going so far as to offer me ministries of my choice. Diplomats, recognising the risk journalists face in Sri Lanka, have offered me safe passage and the right of residence in their countries. Whatever else I may have been stuck for, I have not been stuck for choice.

But there is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.
Mr. Wickrematunge's entire editorial is incredibly heartbreaking, poignant and uplifting all at once.

And absolutely worth a full read.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Wickrematunge's family and friends.

Friday, January 16, 2009

"What Freedom Means To Me"

AmericaSpeakOn has heard from people from around our country who are interested in creating homemade videos answering the question, "What Freedom Means To Me".

In the next few weeks, as ASO gets up and running, we're going to be doing much more around this idea - including holding a "Best Grassroots Video" contest of sorts.

Until then, we thought it would be fun to look back at three videos that went viral during the 2008 campaign.

So get ready to dust of your camcorders and let your creative juices flow (and don't forget to leave comments linking to videos you would like to share with the ASO community)!

U.S. Senator James Inhofe Discusses Obama White House Advisor Carol Browner's Desire To Bring Back The Fairness Doctrine

On Fox News the other morning (at about 1:17 into the clip):

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Barack Obama 2.0

You might not agree with President-elect Obama on the issues, but his team sure does know how to organize at the grassroots level.

And there is a fascinating look in today's LA Times about how Barack Obama is planning to use (and build on) Obama '08 campaign machinery to push his presidential agenda in his first term:
The organization, known internally as "Barack Obama 2.0," is being designed to sustain a grass-roots network of millions that was mobilized last year to elect Obama and now is widely considered the country's most potent political machine.


Though the plan still is emerging, one source with knowledge of the internal discussion said the organization could have an annual budget of $75 million in privately raised funds. Another said it would deploy hundreds of paid staff members -- possibly one for every congressional district in certain politically important states and even more in larger battlegrounds such as Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina.

The full-time staff is likely to consist primarily of the presidential campaign workers, many in their 20s, who served as the local points of contact for the campaign's vast network of neighborhood volunteers. As part of the new organization, these workers probably would focus on similar campaign-style tasks, such as arranging phone banks, distributing signs, recruiting more helpers, buying coffee and doughnuts for house meetings and reporting voter contact data to senior officials.
The whole article is really worth a read.

Also, while AmericaSpeakOn is on the subject of Obama and grassroots organizing, the Washington Post has a terrific interview with Obama's 2008 campaign manager here.

Editor Of Human Events Wants AG Designate Eric Holder To Answer Questions About Fairness Doctrine

Jed Babbin, the editor of the popular conservative website, wants Eric Holder, Barack Obama's pick for Attorney General, to answer questions about the Fairness Doctrine.

Posting today, Mr. Babbin wrote this:
The Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. Before Holder’s nomination is voted on by the committee, he should answer searching inquiries that may reveal his unfitness for that post.

Going through Holder’s record is a huge task, but some of his speeches, legal writings and other actions -- as investigated by a House committee almost seven years ago -- quickly reveal some of the most important questions. Holder should be required to answer the following questions in the very first hearing.


The Fairness Doctrine: In a June 2004 speech -- again to an American Constitution Society group -- Holder spoke about the difficulties of convincing people to support the liberal agenda. He said:

“In the short term, this will not be an easy task. With the mainstream media cowered (sic) by conservative critics, and the conservative media disseminating the news in anything but a fair and balanced manner, and you know what I mean there, the means to reach the greatest number of people is not easily accessible.”

Question for Holder: The so-called “Fairness Doctrine” is a relic of the 1940s. It allowed federal bureaucrats to regulate the content of radio broadcasts on an ideological basis to ensure “balance.” President Reagan did away with it in 1987. Do you think a law or regulation that re-imposed the “Fairness Doctrine” would be Constitutional today?
Babbin's questions for Mr. Holder make good sense to us.

Obama Selects Genachowski to Lead F.C.C.

The New York Times reported yesterday that President-elect Barack Obama has selected Julius Genachowski to lead the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC will play a key role in deciding and implementing upcoming freedom of speech issues, and it will be interesting to hear what Mr. Genachowski has to say on issues like the Fairness Doctrine.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fairness Doctrine - Not so fair!

I, like most Americans, am thankful that the elections are behind us and a peaceful transition of power will occur on Jan. 20, 2009. This is a real time for America to be proud that we live in a free country. It is with this in mind that I worry a bit about some of our new President's ideas about free speech. President elect Obama has said that he wants the Fairness Doctrine, which was abolished in 1987, to be reinstated. This means that the Federal Government will play "talk police" and decide what should be broadcasted via our airways. I understand that all of us want and need to hear all sides of every important issue, but the operative thought here is that we already do make that decision simply by choosing to tune into our favorite news/talk/broadcast show.

If we are compelled to listen to all sides of an issue, regardless of its merit, then we have lost our choice, or more succinctly put, our freedom of speech. After all, don't we exercise those freedoms each time we tune into our favorite broadcast. If the Fairness Doctrine were reinstated during the tragic times of 9/11, all the talk after 9/11 that Osama Bin Laden was a bad guy, would have to be balanced with opposing views that maybe Osama wasn't such a bad guy. I don't know about you, but my freedom of choice and speech would immediately turn that broadcast outlet off! Just a thought, God Bless America and our freedom of speech.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Press Release on the Broadcaster Freedom Act

#### Press Release####

For More Information
Contact: 202-621-1785

Jan. 7, 2009 Applauds Legislation to Protect Free Speech
Washington, D.C. applauds Senators DeMint and Thune and Representatives Pence and Walden for demonstrating their commitment to the principles of free speech and fair and open debate by introducing their Broadcaster Freedom Act (BFA). The BFA would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from prescribing rules, regulations or policies that would result in the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine – the requirement that broadcasters present opposing views on controversial issues. The DeMint/ Thune and the Pence/Walden bills would ensure true freedom and fairness would remain over our public airways. congratulates these members of Congress and their cosponsors for recognizing and protecting this vital American liberty – the right to free speech – and will work tirelessly to educate the public of the benefits of free speech, and the dangers associated with inhibiting free voices.

At this challenging time in our Nation’s history the importance of an unencumbered dialogue free and clear of unjust government intervention becomes even more essential with freedoms of American citizens being eroded daily. The reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine represents the first major step toward depriving Americans of their fundamental right to use their voice. Reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine would be an imposition by government to dictate political, religious and moral views expressed over the broadcast airwaves.

About us- is a national grassroots movement dedicated to promoting public policies that protect the right of Americans to engage in free speech and vigorous public debate. This 501(c)(4) organization was founded by "we the people" to "secure the Blessings of Liberty" and ensure the preservation of our basic inalienable rights.
# # #

The Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2009

On Wednesday, January 7, Senators DeMint and Thune and Congressmen Pence and Walden reintroduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act. The bill is identical to HR 2905 in the 110th Congress, which every member of the House Republican Conference cosponsored. The Broadcaster Freedom Act will prevent the FCC or any future President from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

You can read the text of the bill below:

To prevent the Federal Communications Commission from repromulgating the fairness doctrine.
1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa-
¬2 tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
4 This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Broadcaster Freedom
5 Act of 2009’’.
7 Title III of the Communications Act of 1934 is
8 amended by inserting after section 303 (47 U.S.C. 303)
9 the following new section:
3 ‘‘Notwithstanding section 303 or any other provision
4 of this Act or any other Act authorizing the Commission
5 to prescribe rules, regulations, policies, doctrines, stand¬-
6 ards, or other requirements, the Commission shall not
7 have the authority to prescribe any rule, regulation, policy,
8 doctrine, standard, or other requirement that has the pur¬-
9 pose or effect of reinstating or repromulgating (in whole
10 or in part) the requirement that broadcasters present op¬
11 posing viewpoints on controversial issues of public impor¬-
12 tance, commonly referred to as the ‘Fairness Doctrine’,
13 as repealed in General Fairness Doctrine Obligations of
14 Broadcast Licensees, 50 Fed. Reg. 35418 (1985).’’.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Become an Original Cosponsor of the Broadcaster Freedom Act

From: The Honorable Mike Pence

Support Real Fairness on the Airwaves
Become an Original Cosponsor of the Broadcaster Freedom Act
Dear Republican Colleague:
The American people love a fair fight, especially where the issues of the day are debated. In a free market, fairness should be determined based upon equal opportunity, not equal results. As some voices are calling for Congress to enforce their idea of “fairness” upon the American people, it would be good for us to proceed with caution whenever some would achieve their “fairness” by limiting the freedom of others.
Since the demise of the Fairness Doctrine beginning in 1985, talk radio has emerged as a dynamic forum for public debate and an asset to the nation. Unfortunately, in the name of fairness, there has been much talk recently about the need to level the playing field of radio broadcasting by restoring the Fairness Doctrine.
Bringing back the Fairness Doctrine would amount to government control over political, religious and moral views expressed on the public airwaves. It is a dangerous proposal to suggest the government should be in the business of rationing free speech.
On Wednesday, January 7, we plan to reintroduce the Broadcaster Freedom Act. The bill is identical to HR 2905 in the 110th Congress, which every member of the House Republican Conference cosponsored. The Broadcaster Freedom Act will prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from prescribing rules, regulations, or policies that will reinstate the requirement that broadcasters present opposing viewpoints in controversial issues of public importance. The Broadcaster Freedom Act will prevent the FCC or any future President from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. This legislation ensures true freedom and fairness will remain on our radio airwaves.


Mike Pence Greg Walden
Member of Congress Member of Congress
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