Dangerous Speech from Doctors

So, what is it with these laws that try to stifle doctors from speaking honestly with their patients about matters that concern their health? Going back to the Reagan years, ‘gag laws’ are popular with the same politicians that preach against ‘gummint interference in our health care’.

Mining corporations in Pennsylvania have legislated to put doctor’s careers at risk if they disclose the names of chemicals that have made their patients sick.

In Florida, pediatricians had to fight for the right to follow their best judgment in protecting children. Today, Medscape.com, reports that the First Amendment still protects us…

Florida chapters of national medical societies such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with several individual physicians, sued the state in federal court to block what they called a “gag law.” They argued that physicians should be free to ask patients, especially parents of young children, whether they own guns, and if so, to advise them about safe storage. The ultimate goal is to prevent shootings that occur, for example, when a child finds a loaded pistol in a desk drawer.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), which had lobbied for the law’s passage, unsuccessfully tried to intervene as a party in the federal case. It saw the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms at stake, as opposed to the First Amendment and free speech.

Louis St Petery, MD, a pediatric cardiologist in Tallahassee, Florida, and executive vice president of the state’s AAP chapter, hailed Judge Cooke’s latest ruling as a victory for preventive care.

“We were not out after gun owners’ rights,” Dr. St Petery told Medscape Medical News. “We were out to protect children. Pediatricians need to discuss [gun safety] issues openly to prevent children from getting killed.”

Government is flawed and corruptible, but when special interests use local power to pass bad laws, citizens can and must call on our Constitutional rights. Industry loves deregulation, except when it’s bad for business.

Rush to the Lifeboats

Ipsos at Daily Kos has an analysis of how the money flows in talk radio. Ipsos argues that the best way to exercise your free, unsponsored speech is with your local station.

As I’ve been telling you (here, for instance, a week ago), Rush makes money for Premiere Radio Networks (aka Clear Channel, half-owned by Bain Capital) in two ways. Premiere sells four minutes of national ads during each hour of Rush’s show, 12 minutes a day in all, to national advertisers, and it charges radio stations to carry the show, giving them 10 minutes of ad time in each hour to sell to local advertisers.

To make Rush’s huge salary (probably not the $56 million a year Forbes claims, but surely in the tens of millions of dollars) pay, Premiere has to charge premium prices for those 12 minutes a day in the show.

If those minutes aren’t filled, or if they’re filled with advertisers getting the show at a discount, Premiere loses money on the deal.

For Premiere to essentially give up 120 minutes of Rush ad time (12 minutes a day over the next two weeks) in hopes that this will all blow over suggests that they’re more worried than they’ve let on until now. They were almost sure that this would blow over by now, and it just keeps going. That’s bad news.

Remember what that judge said about pornography, ‘I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.’ Opinion is one thing, verbal targeting and incitement is another. Anyone who thinks that branding a private citizen a ‘slut’ for attempting to testify in Congress is not declaring open season never went to junior high.

Rush Limbaugh is very good at what he does, a great deal of his communication is by context and tone. I still remember during Sen. John Kerry’s presidential race, the way Limbaugh would say the words, ‘Jewish grandfather’, as if this was a terrible, concealed shame, just found out and gleefully exposed.

It’s not censorship to take the microphone back from one voice that is distributed by a media monopoly. It’s a time to question the manipulation of the law that allowed a few big players to stifle local programming. Let’s start now.

Joe Gordon–Wrath of the King

This story from the Toronto Star should alarm free speakers everywhere, especially those who publish books, blogs, tweets and various utterances that might displease the King. Joe Gordon, born Lerpong Wichaikhammat in Thailand, is doing time for offending His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej…

BANGKOK—An American who translated a banned biography of Thailand’s king and posted the content online while living in Colorado was sentenced to two and a half years in a Thai prison Thursday for defaming the country’s royal family.

Gordon posted links to the banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej several years ago while living in the U.S. state of Colorado, and his case has raised questions about the applicability of Thai law to acts committed by foreigners outside Thailand.

Speaking after the verdict, Gordon said, “I am an American citizen, and what happened was in America.”

The rise of the Internet in recent years has given Thai authorities many more targets to pursue. Last month, Information Minister Anudith Nakornthap said Facebook users who “share” or “like” content that insults the Thai monarchy are committing a crime. Anudith said Thai authorities asked Facebook to remove 86,000 pages between August and November because of alleged lese majeste content.

Gordon, a former car salesman, is accused of having translated excerpts from the unauthorized biography “The King Never Smiles,” published by Yale University Press, into the Thai language and publishing them in a blog. He also provided links to the translation to other two Web forums, prosecutors say.

In the banned book, author Paul M. Handley retraces the king’s life, alleging that he has been a major stumbling block to the progress of democracy in Thailand as he consolidated royal power over his long reign.

An American in prison in Thailand for publishing an internet translation of a Yale University Press book– you’d think that would get a rise out of the Free Internet people, but I had to go to the back pages of Google News to find more on this story– an indication that it’s not getting attention here. The following is from The Nation– not the venerable liberal magazine, but a Thai multimedia news site…

The Nation December 10, 2011 1:00 am
US Ambassador Kristie Kenney’s tweets are usually of a laid-back nature. But that wasn’t the case yesterday, when her special “chat” with tweeple landed her in the middle of Thailand’s hottest political topics.

She was asked about Thai-American lese majeste convict Joe Gordon, as well as about Article 112, Thaksin Shinawatra, and freedom of expression in Thailand in general. Credited with bringing a new approach to diplomacy, this time the ambassador had to rely on tried-and-trusted diplomatic answers to prevent the one-hour session from becoming too incendiary.

On Gordon, she said the US Embassy would continue to assist him in every possible way, including continually raising his case with Thai authorities. Asked for her opinions on Article 112, she replied that she had high respect for the Thai monarchy, but was “troubled by prosecutions inconsistent with international standards”. Thaksin’s future, she said, was up to Thailand to decide.

Well, that’s why they call them diplomats. Some among the Thai people are courageously taking a public stand for free speech. More from The Nation…

About 100 opponents of the lese-majeste law donned black clothes and held a vigil in front of the Criminal Court yesterday to demand the abolition of the law and freedom for prisoners of conscience, including 61-year-old Amphon Tangnoppakul, better known as Akong, the subject of a recent high-profile prosecution.

Protesters wore paper masks of Akong and many held torches, symbolising the death of justice in cases of freedom of expression regarding the institution of the monarchy.

Kwanravee Wangudom, coordinator of a campaign to raise awareness about Article 112 of the penal code, which concerns lese-majeste offences, said that from January to October this year, 122 lese-majeste cases came before the Court of First Instance, with eight pending in the Appeals Court and three with the Supreme Court.

Kwanravee was among the protesters who stood vigil for 112 minutes. She said the lese-majeste law blurred the line between defamation and honest criticism of the institution of the monarchy.

One striking difference in the political landscape of today is the presence of instant communication. Censors are fighting a losing battle when everyone with a cell phone may be the media, in color and in real time. Kings and Presidents take notice– the whole world is watching.

Maybe There Is a God

Doesn’t the Good Book say something about reaping what you sow?

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Authorities say security for last weekend’s canceled Quran burning at a central Florida church cost around $200,000. City officials say they expect the church to pay.

Maybe an analogy is shouting fire in a crowded theatre because you want to be photographed next to the fire truck, and you figure that free publicity can be gamed from free speech if you are clever enough.

It will be interested to see how this plays out.

Dr. Laura and Free Speech

In between visiting patients today I had WRNI on the radio. I love WRNI, also my radio is broke and that’s the only station it will play and I have to jiggle the on button, but that’s another story.

Anyway, Michelle Martin on ‘Tell Me More’ had several guests who couldn’t stop themselves from pointing out that Dr. L. has a PhD in physiology. That makes her an expert on the Krebs Cycle and acetylcholine.

You normally wouldn’t go to a physiologist for psychological counseling, (that’s kind of like calling the Physics Hotline for predictions) but if you air your dirty laundry on the radio because you think you’ll get it washed for free you take your chances.

Then again, access to psychological help is so out of reach for many people we should probably be grateful Dr. L. isn’t giving electric shock treatment in her garage.

Anyway, regarding free speech, you’ll find it here at Kmareka. We don’t get paid anything.

Laura Schlessinger can say whatever she wants. The Constitution doesn’t guarantee her the right to say it on her own radio program. As far as her sponsors– they want her to promote their products, that’s what she’s paid for. Let her try and say that General Motors makes lousy cars and see how long before they pull the microphone cord.

Here’s a link to one NPR review of what ‘s in the first amendment.

And anyone out there who wants to pay me to write– my rates are negotiable.

You shouldn’t need to have a PhD in poitical science to know the difference between free and paid speech. It’s something every citizen should know. Here is a civics lesson from Rashad Robinson.

Vampires Must be Invited

They say that vampires can’t enter your house unless they’re invited. In fact, from Dracula on, the creepy thrill of vampires is their seduction.

I’m stealing a few minutes before a heavy work day, so this will be a little fragmented. The TV is off, the warm insinuating voices of the commercials, which now comprise most of what comes over on the cable service I pay for, are blocked until my husband wakes up and invites them in.

The Supreme Court has decided that corporations are persons with a right to free speech. You, citizen, can stand on a soapbox and shout. The corporation, like a vampire, is kind of a person but different. Like a vampire, it’s got superpowers. In the realm of free speech, the Supremes have decided that you on your soapbox and the corporation with its wealth and network of brand names are equal. So go ahead and do your door to door canvassing. It’s all good.

There’s no way not to invite them in. Every big name owns hundreds of smaller names and you need a detective to find out who really owns who. It’s no secret they own our politicians. Now they have an invitation to own the debate.

A while ago I stopped shopping at Whole Foods. I wasn’t going to freeze my garbanzos holding a sign at the State House for health care reform and then give money to a corporation whose CEO opposed it. Although they’ve removed him from that prominent post, I doubt anything’s changed.

Anyway, I accepted a little inconvenience and started shopping more locally. That has worked out so well I won’t go back. Today, starts the first in a series highlighting small and local businesses as alternatives to the corporations that will now be able to stamp their logos on our candidates openly. Resist inviting the vampires in as an exercise to your skepticism and democratic spirit, because they’ll be out in force by Halloween.

Today’s local business is Yacht Club Soda. Located in North Providence, founded in 1915 and still going strong, Yacht Club uses Rhode Island natural spring water and glass bottles which they sterilize and re-use. This was industry-wide practice before cheap plastic as old-timers might recall. Back when the product had more value than the package. I expect to see a number of candidates brought to us by Coca-Cola. Since the corporations have solidified the right to act as persons ( incredibly powerful and rich aggregate persons with superpowers), I’ll treat them as persons who get on my nerves.
Since they’ve got the Supremes to buy into the philosophy that money is a form of speech, I’ll be mindful of who I give my dollar to.