When Cleavage Is a Crime...

...only outlaws will show cleavage. Or something like that.

In recent comments at the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. conference in San Francisco, Rep. F. James Sensebrenner III (Prig, Wis.), underscores that the numerals trailing his name are an indication of I.Q. as much as breeding. Fulminating against indecency on the boob tube, the Badger State* blowhard suggests that small-screen swearing, cleavage, and god knows what else should be a crime:

"People who are in flagrant disregard should face a criminal process rather than a regulator process," Sensenbrenner said. "That is the way to go. Aim the cannon specifically at the people committing the offenses, rather than the blunderbuss approach that gets the good actors.

"The people who are trying to do the right thing end up being penalized the same way as the people who are doing the wrong thing."

Whole thing here.

More on the same stupid issue here.

[Thanks to reader mbonacquisti for the tip.]

* Originally read "Beaver State"; apologies to all Oregonians, Wisconsinians, and double entendre hounds.

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  • ||

    Wisconsin is the BADGER state.

    "Beaver" state...sheesh...

  • ||

    Handsome Dan beat me to it.

    But Sensenbrenner is most definitely an idiot. Would you believe that they had him chairing the House Science Committee at some point? Not Vernon Ehlers (former physics professor from Michigan), not that other physicist from New Jersey (sorry, can't remember his name), not a medical doctor or engineer or any of the other scientists who might be in the House. Nope, Sensenbrenner.

  • ||

    Different animals, same fucking nitwit Representative. Badger, Beaver, who cares?

    Fascism gets one step closer.

  • ||

    I can't wait to find out about the skeletons in this schmuck's closet....

  • ||

    I'm really, really hoping that this is an Onion story that got picked up by mistake....

  • ||

    Thoreau: any idea what Sensenbrenner's profession is (other than moral blowhard)?

  • ||

    Oregon is the "Beaver State."

  • ||

    The overreaches will come. I know they will.

    ...They just can't help it. They never can. They overreach. It's who they are. It's what they do.

  • ||

    Evan-

    Former lawyer, just like the rest of them.

    But Gary will assure us that even though the legal profession provides us with most of our politicians that should in no way suggest that there's anything crooked about the legal profession ;)

    Pay no attention to the crook behind the curtain! Or the crook standing next to him. Or the crook shaking your hand. Or the one picking your pocket. Or the ones listed on the ballot. Or the one doing the filibuster....

  • ||

    "Cable companies allow customers to block channels they find offensive but still require the customers to pay for it."

    That's great. Can't let there be any chance little Johnnie might see some bare tit on TV, but you can sure let the cable companies screw their customers.

    I know that the pay thing isn't that big of a deal, but when they're making mountains out of molehills everywhere else, what the fuck?

  • ||

    Not quite cutting enough to be an Onion story.

  • ||

    Call the dickhead non-Sessenbrener. :)

    thoreau,

    Would you rather a libertarian like myself not be an attorney? :)

  • ||

    "Cable companies allow customers to block channels they find offensive but still require the customers to pay for it."

    There was some talk of forcing cable (and satellite?) companies to allow a complete ala carte selection of channels. While I doubt Sensebrenner will get much support, I wouldn't doubt the ala carte supporters will seize upon proposed legislation like this to be their tool of force.

    As someone who would prefer ala carte service over the existing channel socialization, I'm sure the end result would be some fucked up ala carte system - you'll get these 40 channels for X dollars, but you can get a few cents back if you write in and say you don't want certain channels.

    Still, wasn't the V-Chip supposed to be the smut-safe option for all the nannies out there?

  • ||

    Lucky for me, I will never have to worry about baring too much cleavage on-screen.

  • ||

    Would you rather a libertarian like myself not be an attorney? :)

    OK, good point!

    Just remember, though: Many have entered the system with the best of intentions, vowing that they will not be assimilated, that they will fight and remain true to their beliefs.

    Next thing they know, they wind up suing a home owner on behalf of a thief who broke into the house and tripped over a laundry basket on the floor.

    Be careful.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Dude, I always thought that was why they called it the Boob Tube. No wait, that was on the porn channels.

    Russ, ala carte is appealing to me too. I hate the way the channels are packaged by Satellite providers. But, it sure is better than old time mainline TV. At leaset we get to opt out of some of the stuff.

    Me? Strange as it may seem, I don't want any premium channels at all. I'll settle for the 200 or so 'normal' channels. I could do without MTV these days too, who the hell is watching that shit? I long for the days of actual Music Videos and Beavis.

  • ||

    Of course, we'd rather see the federal government get out of the business of regulating broadcasters, but as long as they're in it, let's discuss regulatory vs. criminal procedures for enforcement.

    "'I'd prefer using the criminal process rather than the regulatory process,' Sensenbrenner told the executives.

    "The current process -- in which the FCC fines a licensee for violating the regulations -- casts too wide a net, he said, trapping those who are attempting to reign in smut on TV and those who aren't."

    Wouldn't it be *less bad* to have alleged violators prosecuted in the criminal justice system - with the right of a trial by a jury of one's peers - rather than in the antilibertarian climate of a regulatory agency which may be predisposed to convict and is subject to Congressional pressure?

    This is basically a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils, and if administrative fines for indecency were abolished in exchange for putting alleged offenders through the regular justice system, wouldn't that be a trade-off at least worth considering? Maybe it won't work, but let's hear the Congressman out. It will be harder for him and his colleagues to intimidate jurors than to intimidate FCC commissioners.

  • Angie||

    (glances down) and just what is wrong with cleavage??

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Fannie, cleavage is over rated and eventually may become knee-age.

    Some us guys just like, well, you know, we like stuff just the way it comes from the factory.

    I was going to close with an old adage about what constitutes waste with respect to that sort of thing but I guess I won't.

  • ||

    For being a lawyer, Sensenbrenner doesn't seem to have much of a grasp on the First Amendment.

  • ||

    The thing about Sensenbrenner is that the leadership loves him. He has taken up a bunch of scutwork for the House Republicans, and Hastert and his crew appreciate it. For awhile he was the chamber's "official objector", making sure that when the then Democratic Speaker was trying to slide something through Reps didn't like on voice vote without objection that a roll call vote would ensue. He was also one of the members sent over to the Senate to mismanage the trial of Bill Clinton. He's also Judiciary chairman. Over the years his district, which consists of suburban and rural areas outside Milwaukee county, has been redrawn to be so safe that he only gets token opposition. I'd run against him, but I couldn't afford a straw pallet in a barn in his district, so I make do in M'waukee.

    I believe his chairmanship of the Science committee is a result of his long interest in oversight of NASA, whose budget requests he has not always treated kindly.

    Sensenbrenner is also the genius behind the Real ID Act, H.R. 418, which was stuffed into the emergency supplemental, H.R. 1268, and then passed the House.

    Kevin

  • ||

    Bonar,

    Do the words "chilling effect" have any meaning to you?

    Because we have an antiquated (in every sense) regulatory system lording over a part of the rapidly converging media/internet/entertainment data stream (will we be able to distinguish a "televsion" from a "computer" in ten years?), we should welcome more "focused" criminal prosecutions (with, admittedly, higher standards of proof, and the right to jury trials) as a better alternative?!?!?

    How about about just coming into the 21st century (also in every sense)? Is that too much to ask?

    Sic semper tyrannis, baby.

  • ||

    TWC:

    You may enjoy MTV2, which plays actual videos. I've been watching it on an over-the-air low power VHF station. They've recently relaunched it, but just a few months ago they would run hours of B&B in blocks.

    Cool.

    heh.

    Kevin

  • ||

    (glances down) and just what is wrong with cleavage??

    Let me assure you, I'm going to be looking into this issue.

  • ||

    "Do the words 'chilling effect' have any meaning to you?"

    I think people on this forum should be familiar with the concept of "a lesser evil." Many people wrote here last year to defend voting for Bush or Kerry, on the grounds that one was a lesser evil than the other. Incidentally, both Bush and Kerry seem to be in favor of federal broadcast regulation, so this analogy is directly relevant.

    I know that "regulatory fines versus jury trial" may sound like "arsenic versus hemlock" or "Democrat versus Republican," but it's not the same as "First Amendment versus federal regulation." I would support the First Amendment versus federal regulation every time, but alas, that's not the alternative being presented to us at present.

    In conclusion, I don't actually know which would be better - jury trial or regulatory fine. I'd welcome discussion.

  • ||

    Bonar Law has a point.

    Stern has said his main beef with the FCC is that there is no day in court with them. They get to arbitrarily decide what is indecent and fine you without any appeal. Now if any broadcast company had the juevos to refuse to pay the fine and take it to court that wouldn't be the case, but since the FCC holds their licenses hostage they never do. If these complaints made it before a court of law they would be thrown out on first amendment grounds faster than Stern can get a stripper into the Robo-Spanker. Granted, I don't know the specifics of Sensenbrenner's plan. Apparently, neither does he. But a day in court is always preferable to decisions made in the FCC's Star Chamber.

  • ||

    But a day in court is always preferable to decisions made in the FCC's Star Chamber.

    Be careful what you wish for. The FCC, an unlected body, creates regulations. Now you want this unelected body to basically turn their regulations into laws? Stern would be looking at jail time rather than having his employer pay fines.

  • ||

    I understand what your saying jc, but at least he could have a People vs. Larry Flynt type moment. Of course there is a risk involved if the jury goes against you, but there would be an opportunity to make your case where there is none now. And sometimes victory can rise from defeat. After all Scopes lost the Monkey Trail.

    I'm not saying it's the best of solutions. I wish the government had nothing to do with censorship what so ever. I just agree with Bonar Law that it could be the lesser of two evils. Because the FCC will grow ever more powerful as long as broadcast companies continue to bend over and pay the fines. That has a greater chilling effect on creativity and expressions then a day in courts would.

  • ||

    If they squash cleavage, spanish language television is done.

  • ||

    �Ay caramba, no m�s senos!

  • ||

    I was tempted to post...

    Libertarians aren't going to get anywhere until they get rid of their stupid purity tests and learn to embrace right-wing, anti-cleavage crusaders.

    ...but that horse has already been beaten to death. Has it not?

  • fyodor||

    It seems basic that anytime the government penalizes you, you should be able to fight it in court. Someone help me out here, can FCC fines be challenged in court? Bonar Law, you make some good points, but I would ask, would these laws be replacing regulatory power or merely being added onto it? Also, part of the proposal being blogged about is to shift responsibility from the broadcaster to the individual players. I wouldn't have wanted Stern in jail, but I wouldn't have minded Janet Jackson taking the rap rather than the network who really wasn't at fault! It's kind of about individual responsibility, when you think of it. And that way there's no chilling effect on the network if they're not the ones facing punishment. Hmmm, that said, if someone does something that is ONLY illegal because they are being broadcast, one wonders if they're at fault either. These damn victimless crimes get so damn abstract!! Well, I'm not sure where I stand on this, but I think it's worth investigating and not dismissing out of hand. But at the least, such criminal proceedings would have to REPLACE regulatory powers to have any advantage.

  • ||

    fyodor,

    Why the hell not? You can fight a traffic ticket in court. (Of course, they don't hold your car hostage while you do...)

  • ||

    Assuming one buys into the Supremes' BS about protected v. unprotect "speech", we are still talking about fucking PROTECTED speech here, guys--there are now going to be CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS for protected speech?!?!?

    If criminal prosecutions for broadcast "indecency" are supposed to be a "good" example of buying into the "lesser of two evils" paradigm, then all I can say is thank fucking Christ I do not choose to play that game. I hope you enjoy the country you get if it agrees with you.

    There is a certain point where absolute principles are required, even if they look like pragmatic "losers" in the short run. But I'm sure in 1776 many Tories thought exactly as you do now, disdaining the "hotheads" who thought so.

  • ||

    C'mon people! We are still going to protect your freedom of choice; all you have to do to unlock the smutty filth channnels is swipe your new National ID Card* through a slot in your TV. It's for the children, after all**.

    *And by "National ID Card" I mean a card issued by the government to all residents for purposes of identification, but not a "National ID Card."

    **And Kerry would have been worse.

  • ||

    And, yes, FCC fines can be challenged in court--any administrative action ultimately can be brought into court ON AN APPELLATE BASIS. Bonar's point, I guess, is that he would prefer criminal court actions at the outset, with the higher standards of proof, and the right to trial by jury, as opposed to administrative actions with a record fixed in administrative hearings, with that record being reviewed (with deference) by any eventual reviewing court.

    Apparently rejecting the whole fucking mess is supposed to be off the table as "impractical". Where I come from this is known as surrendering in the guise of facing some allegedly immutable "reality".

    Shit, I hated the fucking Pope but even he didn't do that!

  • ||

    Ken Shultz:

    I was tempted to post... Libertarians aren't going to get anywhere until they get rid of their stupid purity tests and learn to embrace right-wing, anti-cleavage crusaders.

    Well, while some accommodation is possible, we still have to pick our hills to die on.

    So to speak.

    ...but that horse has already been beaten to death. Has it not?

    "I'd say you were a sadistic hippophilic necrophile, but that's beating a dead horse." (Woody Allen, What's Up, Tiger Lily?

    And before you say, "So it's Stevo Cleavage now, is it?" -- no, it's not. :)

    PS: I love Spanish-language television! Viva Univision!

  • ||

    Hmmm, that said, if someone does something that is ONLY illegal because they are being broadcast, one wonders if they're at fault either.

    There are plenty of instances where the legality of an act depends on the environment in which it takes place. For instance, if a person masturbates in front of their bedroom window overlooking a busy street, and the blinds are open, it's indecent exposure; if they're closed, it's perfectly legal.

  • ||

    In the case of "your money or your life", I think "your money" is the lesser of two evils. But that's just me.

  • ||

    Because the FCC has the power to approve acquisitions as well as grant and revoke licenses, the broadcast companies never fight the fines in court. That might change when the fines are levied on individual talents, but I'm sure that even then the companies would just pay it for them or more likely can their ass to avoid trouble with the FCC. Guys like Stern would have the dough to fight on their own, but Burrito Jimmy from the Morning Zoo Crew in Peoria or Sioux Falls would be screwed. Talk about your chilling effects.

  • ||

    "Bonar Law, you make some good points, but I would ask, would these laws be replacing regulatory power or merely being added onto it?"

    I don't know what specific law Rep. Sensenbrenner has in mind, which is one reason I want to wait and see.

    "Bonar's point, I guess, is that he would prefer criminal court actions at the outset, with the higher standards of proof, and the right to trial by jury, as opposed to administrative actions with a record fixed in administrative hearings, with that record being reviewed (with deference) by any eventual reviewing court."

    I actually don't know if the specifics of this proposal would be a good thing, but I think that it would be possible for such a reform to get us in the direction of less regulation.

    For example, as others have noted, if only the individual obscenity-utter, breast-barer, etc. is punished, and not the whole network or station, then there would be less of a chilling effect. The stations and networks would be less likely to pre-emptively screen content for fear of the feds.

    Say what you will about jurors (especially now that intelligent jurors are likely to be screened out), a jury doesn't have to worry about how its verdict will affect its appropriation in Congress. And so long as we retain the requirement of unanimous juries of 12, it will be harder to get convictions than persuading a majority of FCC commissioners.

    On the other hand (OTOH?), the present system doesn't involve putting Janet Jackson in prison (one Jackson sibling in prison at a time, please!). Punishment is in for form of a fine for the broadcaster; no flesh-and-blood human being is deprived of liberty. So the present system has its virtues.

    Deregulation would be better than either trial by administrator or trial by jury, but sometimes victories for freedom are won piecemeal. Religious freedom in England wasn't won at once; for a long time, the only chance religious dissenters had was to invoke *procedural* objections to the way they were treated. In many cases, English dissenters won procedural rights before they won full religious freedom.

  • ||

    jc,

    Unless it was Jack Benny. Once on his show he was held up by a robber, who told him, "Your money or your life!"

    Jack didn't reply.

    "Well?" the robber asked.

    "I'm thinking," Jack said.

  • ||

    B.L.,

    By punishing the artist instead of the carrier, wouldn't that run the risk of creating scores of ersatz "martyrs" being persecuted for their art?

  • ||

    ralphus,

    It is the business entity that is licensed by the FCC, not the individual on the air. The FCC can't fine the individual talents. Sensenbrenner's idea is a whole new can of worms though.

  • ||

    After reading my post I realized that the same would be true if it were a criminal proceeding. Rich guys could fight and poor guys would be screwed. But I bet there would be more than a few high-powered attorneys that would jump at the chance to fight for the first amendment. My hope would be that criminalizing indecency would eventually lead to a Supreme Court ruling on whether the government has any role in policing the airwaves.

  • ||

    Stevo-Wouldn't a hippophilic necrophiliac be fucking a dead horse?

  • ||

    jc,

    If I'm not mistaken the Broadcast Decency Bill that is currently before Congress will give the FCC the power to fine individual talents up to $500,000.

  • ||

    I'm just quoting Woody Allen. I report, you decide.

  • ||

    I would guess that Sensenbrenner's plan would not reduce regulation. Rather, it would simply impose criminal penalties for violations of whatever regulations are in place. Then, once the penalties are place the regs could be tightened further. I feel like Winston Smith.

  • fyodor||

    Henry,

    History is certainly replete with examples of when compromise was not called for; it is certainly also replete with examples of when compromising, or taking half a loaf instead of none, most certainly was called for. Citing one of the former does not somehow prove that the only correct course is always to eschew any sort of compromise or acceptance of the lesser of two evils.

  • ||

    SPD: Or if it was Mr. Krabs. There was an episode of SpongeBob where Mr. Krabs thought he was being mugged and said "Don't shoot...okay shoot, but please don't take my money!"

  • fyodor||

    Besides, if regulatory fines sidestep due process, that should be considered a grave issue principle in itself, regardless of the associated censorship issues. Someone compared the ability to contest regulatory fines to contesting a traffic ticket, but I believe the reason tickets can be levied in lieu of a court proceeding is that they are misdemeanors and thus fall below a certain threshold. Can the same be said for regulatory fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars?

  • ||

    fyodor,

    That was my comment earlier about the traffic ticket. Is there a limit on what constitutes a misdemeanor fine?

  • fyodor||

    Apparently rejecting the whole fucking mess is supposed to be off the table as "impractical"

    Sigh, this issue has been addressed before, and it's a shame to have to rehash it, but FWIW, I do "reject the whole fucking mess," okay? I'm not the least afraid to say that, whether it's political feasible or not. But neither am I afraid to discuss what is especially bad within a system that I don't expect to go away anytime soon. Discussing one is not mutually exclusive with discussing the other! And you do not gain moral superiority by being willing to discuss the one and not the other!!

  • fyodor||

    SPD,

    I'm no lawyer, but I believe there's an actual dollar amount written into the law to make the distinction. Perhaps someone could help us out on this.

  • ||

    "...but I believe the reason tickets can be levied in lieu of a court proceeding is that they are misdemeanors and thus fall below a certain threshold. Can the same be said for regulatory fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars?"

    I believe they're actually regarded as "infractions", which don't rise to the level of a misdemeanor. ...and no, I don't think the federal government can refer to a fine of $500,000 as an infraction, but I suspect the idea of an "infraction" also rises from the fact the rules are theoretically assented to by the license holder during the licensing process.

    ...That's why, I believe, moral crusaders go for administrative fines rather than risking it all in open court; the rules are all in their favor. Broadcasters knew what the rules were, and they knew that the licensing body could change the rules at any time, and they knew that when they obtained their license. If a broadcaster doesn't like the rules, he can surrender the license.

    Anyway, I think that's why these issues stay out of court. In open court, moral crusaders have to deal with definitions of obscenity, the Constitution and other inconveniences.

    You're gonna have to give the moral crusaders something better than why they already have in order to get them to change. I don't think we can offer them anything better than what they've already got and still call ourselves libertarians.

    So short of that, we should offer their supporters something better than what they've got, like a tax cut. ...How much money can the Federal Government raise by selling rather than licensing spectrum?

  • ||

    Christ. Long live pirate radio.

  • ||

    I'm going to guess that none of you "lesser of two evils" fuckers is going to volunteer to have the police power of the state fall on you. That will be up to some other person, right?

  • ||

    I hear you Henry.

    ...but it's not even a "pragmatic" solution that's being suggested! If only we required moral crusaders to subject themselves to the courts--why would they want to do that? If only we got congress to vote themselves out of an oversight role--why would they want to do that? Why would broadcasters want to be forced to pay for the spectrum they use?

    ...But that's the "pragmatic" solution.

    Why would voters want to force a spectrum sale on congress? To put money in their pockets, that's why! ...Oh but that solution is supposedly unrealistic.

    ...I was once a Republican, and when I was, I tried to convince libertarian minded voters to support the Republican Party. Once this changed, and I found myself trying to convince Republicans to support the Libertarian Party, I switched. It wasn't easy.

    ...I think part of this is a result of the divorce Gillespie talked about--you know it's always hardest on the kids.

  • ||

    I am a tad embarassed to enjoy somne of the programming, especially in front of my daughter. But I'm more afraid of restrictions or potential criminality for expression.

    Ultimately, the people will not watch what is utterly objectionable.

  • ||

    Y'all are wrong with your assumption. Stop running around trying to bite your butt. Read and get it right!

    Go here:http://www.redstaterant.com/index.php

    Before you jump to conclusions, it pays to verify your sources.

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