Bite Your Tongue

by Bill Hufnagle

From time to time I write to you about issues that I see as affecting our American Freedoms. Sometimes these are directly related to motorcycling; sometimes they are on broader issues. This time it is a broader issue, one that could have a chilling effect on one of our most basic rights: freedom of speech. Yes, our First Amendment is under attack in Congress. So why does this matter to you as a biker? Read what that part of our Bill of Rights says:

“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.”

Freedom of speech is the tool that we use “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Just look around at the issues that confront us as motorcycle riders: from helmet laws to land closures; from motorcycle bans on public roadways to, well, the list goes on and on. We face a lot of challenges that are the result of government assaults on our chosen lifestyle and legal form of transportation. We need to preserve the full meaning of the First Amendment or face a dire future.

What is afoot is a bill before Congress that has passed the House of Representatives and now is in the Senate’s hands. Known as H.R. 310, “The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005,” it passed the House by a vote of 389-38. What this bill does is eliminate existing warnings and allow the FCC to assess half-million-dollar ($500,000) fines against both the broadcast licensees and the individual performers for each and every utterance deemed “indecent.” Yet the FCC’s standard for indecency remains unclear and subject to change.

We all probably would agree that there should be common decency in broadcast media where young children are concerned, but do we want to have our voices in the media living and working under vague rules and fines like under the sword of Damocles? Large corporations and networks can break these rules and pay the penalties and still make huge profits. When a 30-second commercial on the Superbowl costs around $2.25 million, what is half a million in fines? Just a cost of doing business is all. We all also know that this started with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake exposing her boob during the 2003 Superbowl. Frankly, after seeing the incident, it would have been more appropriate to fine her doctor for bad plastic surgery.

While Jackson and Timberlake, like many famous on-air personalities, are millionaires, the vast majority of the media are just hard-working folks, employed in an ever-consolidating industry. They work under the constant pressure to meet corporate ratings and profit goals. Many are union members like I am and you may be. For the majority of these working journalists, commentators, and entertainers, $500,000 is a huge penalty, perhaps more than they are worth. Especially when you factor in the part that says, “for each and every utterance deemed ‘indecent.’ ” There is no clear code to follow, and no one knows who is making the call as to what is indecent.

Face it; if you ride a motorcycle, you have surely met folks who, from their self-righteous opinions, believe that you are entitled to less of a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness than they are. You know, they say that opinions are like assholes–everyone has one, but that doesn’t make them all right. Oh, maybe that sentence was indecent? If some folks have their way, they could silence my voice with just one fine. Then there I would be, standing at the side of the road with a sign that says, “homeless will work for food (and not say an untoward word).” Just today I saw a poor soul at the roadside with a sign, and as I said and always do, “There for the grace of God go I.”

I don’t want to live in a distorted America, like the film Demolition Man where the Big-Brother computer issues fines every time someone misspeaks. Do you? If not, write your Senators and ask them to protect free speak and kill that bill.


Warm Tomato Salsa

While I love most fresh salsas cold, this warm version is a notable exception. The chipotle adds a smoky flavor. Consider it a new road to travel and enjoy the adventure.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 chipotle peppers, stemmed and crushed

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried cilantro

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped and drained

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the chipotle peppers, onions, and the garlic and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes or until the onions are golden. Add the black pepper, salt, cumin, cilantro, and tomatoes and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes about 4 cups


Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2005. Recipe reprinted with permission from “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire” published by Whitehorse Press, Center Conway, New Hampshire copyright Bill Hufnagle 1995, 2004. Biker Billy hosts a syndicated television cooking show, “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire” and has authored three cookbooks. Check out where you can acquire autographed books and also find information on Biker Billy’s touring schedule.



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