June 23, 2004

Our Indecent Senate

So. The Senate decided it wants to fine every single person, and that could include you and me, 275,000 dollars just for saying one naughty word (that is, whatever the FCC unilaterally decides is a naughty word) on the radio or the TV. One senator – one senator! – voted against this thing. So here’s a tip of the hat to Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) and a big FUCK YOU to the rest of ‘em.

My house is worth less than 275,000 dollars and it will take me 30 years to pay it off. Hey, senators. Ever hear of the word “proportion?”

Since when did our entire senate, including almost all the Democratic Party, become a prissy uptight puritanical right-wing freakshow anyway? I expect this kind of authoritarian crap from people like Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott, but what on earth is the matter with Ted Kennedy and John Edwards and Hillary Clinton? Oh, and John Kerry too. He voted for this garbage as well.

They’re afraid to take the fight to religious nutjobs who want to kill us, and they’re afraid to stand down the local nutjobs who want to control us. Cowards. Wash my mouth out with soap if you must, but you can stick your 275,000 dollar fine in your ass.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2004 10:36 AM
Comments

Robert Anton Wilson makes the argument better than I ever could, soI'll just post the link :)

I'd love to hear opinions about his essay.

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at June 23, 2004 10:48 AM

Action in a democracy, or a democratic republic such as we have, takes time and effort. Arguing the merits of the War in Iraq and WOT and Social Security Reform and Taxation and Prescription Drugs will take lots of time, lots of human capital, and lots of considered intellectual pondering. Even after all of this effort there often will not be a definitive point of distinction between the various possible decision points.

So, imagine the attraction to our elected officials of an issue that is so simple, so easily argued, and so gratuitously rewarding as that of "vulgarity" on the public airwaves?!? I mean, really, who could possibly be opposed to keeping Janet Jackson's bare naked breast away from the eyeballs of the CHILDREN? Who would possibly object to the banning of George Carlin's famous list of dirty words (shit, piss, cunt, fuck, cock-sucker, mother-fucker, & tits)?

Pathetic, cowardly and pandering; the cynic in me says WTF did you expect?

Posted by: steve at June 23, 2004 10:48 AM

i don't see much difference between dems' fearing challenging Bush on Iraq and their fear of challenging the conservative far right on obscenity laws.

Posted by: mac at June 23, 2004 11:21 AM

Mac: i don't see much difference between dems' fearing challenging Bush on Iraq...

The Dems are afraid to challenge Bush on Iraq? When did that start happening?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2004 11:27 AM

MJT,

You should have mentioned Iraq or Moore if you wanted anyone to comment on this ;-)

Posted by: Ratatosk at June 23, 2004 11:45 AM

before the 2003 invasion, they surely were afraid to challenge him. and even now, what do they call for? more troops!

Posted by: mac at June 23, 2004 11:47 AM

Please, won't someone think of the children?

If 99 out of 100 Senators are prissy uptight puritanical right-wing freaks, maybe the problem lies elsewhere.

Kent Brockman: "I, for one welcome our new prissy uptight puritanical right-wing freak overlords, and I'd like to remind them as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground decency law caves."

Posted by: Bleeding heart conservative at June 23, 2004 11:48 AM

Michael, your post was not an argument. It was a knee-jerk reaction that a highschooler could write.

These are old laws, back when radio and network TV was all there was. Indecency was always fined. Senate is simply voting to increase it.

You have two choices:

1) It is to either remove these laws
2) Or to advocate that government does not enforce our laws.

If soap operas go porno or foul language glitters prime time TV, the FCC must, under law, take action. This is one of the reasons why the FCC is there.

It is like a governor trying to enforce an unpopular law. The governor's job is to enforce the law, not to make it or interpret it. If the governor decides to interpret it or abandon the law, this is a greater problem no matter what that law was.

The reason why the Senate overwhelmingly voted to increase the fines is because networks are brazenly disobeying such guidelines. Their focus is to make people follow the law, so they are updating it.

How you saying that indency rules on public airwaves will destroy everything is beyond me... and beyond reason.

Posted by: Jonathan at June 23, 2004 11:56 AM

So are you mad at the mere existence of the fine, at the amount itself, or at the non-progressive nature of the fine?

Also, give the Dems a little credit -- they have historically been unafraid to stand up to the NRA and abortion-rights crowd, so I suspect that if they folded on this one its because their polls were showing much broader support than just the among the "religious nutjobs".

Also, I suspect that this is at least partly a reaction to the general unattractiveness of the tit in question -- had it been halle berry or the olson twins (hopefully all four) there wouldn't have been nearly the outcry.

Posted by: michael parker at June 23, 2004 11:56 AM

So what do you think would happen if every broadcast on the public airwaves used the 7 words once each day? Maybe something like: "And remember folks, here on 98.3 FM you will never hear shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker or tits on the air."

Civil disobedience anyone... come on, someone in the broadcasting world must have a backbone and some balls (looks around)... well, maybe not.

Posted by: Ratatosk at June 23, 2004 11:58 AM

As for breaux, i'm from louisiana as well, and his votes are more a statement of his price than his principles.

Posted by: michael parker at June 23, 2004 12:00 PM

About Breaux's dissent:

The resulting package passed 99 to 1. Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) cast the dissenting vote, saying he objected to the addition of language dealing with the media ownership rules.

In my view, that brings the Senate pussy count to a perfect 100.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 23, 2004 12:11 PM

100 completely impotent men and women. What a wonderfoul way for The People to have Representation.

Posted by: Ratatosk at June 23, 2004 12:19 PM

Porno soap operas. Hmmm.....

In all seriousness, aren't the decency laws a bit archaic in general? It's not like any kid with anything like usual access to technology and social environments is going to hear and read things that put Stern to shame. The nanny state doesn't have the eyes nor ears to monitor all the channels, and parents who rely on it to do so are fools.

Isn't the illusion that "the children" are protected more dangerous than just opening up the airwaves? All kidding aside, the market is what keeps porn from working in moviehouses.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 23, 2004 12:21 PM

Mark,

Do you dare insuinuate that people should be responsible for their own choices in entertainment? What sort of Country do you think you live in? Ypou can't have people just willy-nilly making up their own minds, and having enough contact with their children to monitor what they're watching/listening to...

Lord a Mercy, next thing you know, you'll be telling me that people have a right not to support a program if they don't approve of the content. Then you'll start spouting stuff about free markets and how the consumer is best served by voting via wallet instead of voting via Our Great And Wonderful Leaders and Representatives.

Thats just Unamerican!!!

Posted by: Ratatosk at June 23, 2004 12:25 PM

This doesn't threaten HBO or other cable channels you pay for. Watch Deadwood on HBO, they say fuck an average of 43 times per episode and the word cocksucker averages about 60 times per episode.

This law affects citizen owned airwaves, which any child can listen too. Frankly, I don't want my children to hear the word fuck 43 times on prime-time TV or see Janet Jackson breasts.

Posted by: Mark D at June 23, 2004 12:44 PM

Mark,

I'll bet your kids hear fuck 43 times a day from their friends at school. In fact, the first breast (in a sexual context)I ever saw was in a porn magazine at school in 5th grade... and that was a small farming town school, not a big city district.

But, maybe they're homeschooled... my parents did that with my two sisters.

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at June 23, 2004 01:03 PM

Another question Michael is where are the small government conservatives on this one?

It's not just the liberals who should be squawking here.

BTW, fuck all Congresscritters!

(I'll help with the fine)

Posted by: spc67 at June 23, 2004 01:07 PM

This law affects citizen owned airwaves, which any child can listen too. Frankly, I don't want my children to hear the word fuck 43 times on prime-time TV or see Janet Jackson breasts.

Won't someone PLEASE think of the children!

And also familiarize Mark D with his TV's off-switch and V-chip.

Posted by: Dave at June 23, 2004 01:08 PM

Amendment itself aside, is not it marvelous that it is embedded in the Defense Department authorization bill? Is FCC funded out of the DoD budget somehow?

Posted by: Con Tendem at June 23, 2004 01:16 PM

Con,

Of course it is... we have to defend our youth against the evildoers.

Posted by: Ratatosk at June 23, 2004 01:22 PM

C'mon. You can't even say "niggardly" in polite society without all of the people who promote "free speech" getting bent out of shape. Somehow, you've forgotten that in a democracy-even a representative democratic republic-the majority rules. Despite what folks on the coasts think, middle America would still rather pretend that such stuff doesn't exist. The senate vote merely reflects that.

Posted by: stumbley at June 23, 2004 01:29 PM

Ratatosk: I have to say that Mr Wilson's essay, while amusing, fails to pursuade me in any meaningful manner. Perhaps I am too "commonly human" by his definition, but given that he admits that "humans seem strangely prone to confusing their mental file cabinets---neurolinguistic grids---with the non-verbal world of sensory-sensual space-time." it would seem strange for FCC, of all institutions, to break through this attribute of human perception and suddenly work within an "operational-existential language." Face it -- they do not, and you do not.

A large portion, AFAIK, of the US legal system is based on the concept of local standards, juries consisting of peers, and a type of morality that may seem quaint to Mr. Wilson. How do "mitigating circumstances" actually mitigate the crime? I do not know -- it depends on the case. The 7 words FCC deems indecent (are there only 7? How can that be?) are indecent because of their common understanding by a large majority of the public as offensive except under special circumstances and not the kind of words they would like to hear randomly on what they consider public commons. May be they are mistaken that this words are offensive, or whether the spectrum is some sort of a public property that the government manages, but if this is the hallucination everyone has, FCC as a public institution has no choice but operate under the same fog.

Working backwards from the essay you mentioned, I have to ask, if there is no functional difference between forbidden words and their allowed synonyms - then what is the problem? Is there something a writer for a network show, working on his script for weeks cannot say without one of these words? Perhaps -- but then there is a difference, and perhaps it is that difference that marks these words as offensive to people who ask their Senators to make sure broadcasters using public airways do not use them.

Do public opinions change? Sure. Are there ways to challenge FCC rulings? I presume so. Are there reasons why these 7 words are considered indecent? I think so. Did corporation agree to these rules before they bought up the spectrum? Yes they did. Why should they be allowed to break the rules now?

Posted by: Con Tendem at June 23, 2004 01:42 PM

I plan to write a letter to my local congresscritters, using all 6 words and more.

I've been a mom too long though, and I'm out of practice, so for inspiration I'll steal a few words from Michael's post and this WTF? post by Andrea Harris.

Posted by: mary at June 23, 2004 01:44 PM
Michael: do not mean to troll and pollute, but, do you want to reconsider your 'hats off' given that
The resulting package passed 99 to 1. Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) cast the dissenting vote, saying he objected to the addition of language dealing with the media ownership rules.
emphasis mine. Posted by: Con Tendem at June 23, 2004 01:45 PM

Michael Parker: So are you mad at the mere existence of the fine, at the amount itself, or at the non-progressive nature of the fine?

All of the above, although I am open to persuasion on the first point. I would first have to be convinced that rescinding the fine altogether would significantly increase the vulgarity of most television and radio, and I would also have to be convinced that this is the govermnent's business in the first place. I am not convinced on either of those points at this time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2004 01:55 PM

Let me get this straight: You guys (mostly) want the Howard Sterns and Opie and Anthonies of this world to be able to say the seven dirty words? You feel that something's missing from a world where you cannot hear those words on the radio?

And the part about your house is a red herring, Michael. The fines have to be big because these yo-yos make a ton of money--I read that the Opie and Anthony guys were pulling down $5 million a year each. The old fine was something like $25,000--pocket change for them.

Posted by: Brainster at June 23, 2004 02:14 PM

Con,

The point of words being reduced to neuro-linguistics is that words are the domain of the mind, and the mind is the domain of the individual (what is foul to one, isn't to another)... The question that presents itself is: "Does the government have the right to legislate words, particularly words that are in common use, based only on the fact that sombunall (some but not all) of the people who may listen to it, would find it offensive?"

The problem I have is not one of fines, or making the broadcasters comply with existing rules (I hold a Class A Broadcasters License (from my days in radio) I also hold a HAM License... which has to be renewed ack!) which I think they should. I don't think the government should legislate words, but I do think that Broadcasters should keep their word... (when you get your Class A license, you agree not to say the 7 words. Every DJ and Broadcaster in the business agreed to that... )if they break their word, they're responsible for the fine.

Also, I'd note that Wilson's essay is talking to individuals (or small groups of people) about how they think, and perhaps how they can rewrite their neural programming to think less restrictively, less from nuro-linguistic hallucinations and more from what signals your brain is actually recieving. Don't read it with the thought that he's going to argue about whats best for everyone... its all about whats going on inside you ;-)

Or not.

Posted by: Ratatosk at June 23, 2004 02:19 PM

As to the size of the fine versus the existence of the decency law: imagine if they had halved the fine rather than raising it. How about if they had reduced it to a negligible and silly amount ($1.00 per incident or $7.00 for Carlin's words unless you could say them really fast as if they were one long word)?

Posted by: steve at June 23, 2004 02:19 PM

Brainster,
" You feel that something's missing from a world where you cannot hear those words on the radio?"

Nope, in fact I don't listen to any of the shcok jocks. I think they're rather silly. However, I do not believe that the Government should be legislating the English language.

How much of your taxes are going to go to enforcement of FCC guidelines, put in place so that some bible thumping fellow, who can't tell the difference between the word fuck and the act of copulation, won't get offended if he turns on the radio? Maybe we should spend those tax dollars teaching him how the on off switch works... as well as hose funny dials that change channels.

Posted by: Ratatosk at June 23, 2004 02:24 PM

Hmmm, this post strikes me as a little over-wrought. I agree the part of the bill increasing fines is stupid and out of line. However it does not, as far as I can tell, apply to everyone. It seems to apply only to boradcasters using the public airwaves.

I'll bet your kids hear fuck 43 times a day from their friends at school.

Right! So lets put porn on television too.

In fact, the first breast (in a sexual context)I ever saw was in a porn magazine at school in 5th grade... and that was a small farming town school, not a big city district.

I'm happy for you.

I don't have a problem with a fine. I don't have a problem fining the individual radio host/television personality voilating the rules. What bothers me is the ill defined nature of the rules. Is it like the old saying, "I'll know something is obscene when I see (hear) it"? If that is the case then I have a problem. The fine also strikes me as too large.

Posted by: Steve at June 23, 2004 02:29 PM

If it is not already obvious from my first post, I think George Carlin is THE expert on this matter. So here is another Carlin point:

What is the difference between saying Asshole and A-hole?
What is the difference between printing Shit or Fuck and S**t or F**k?

The difference is that in both cases the former is prohibited and the latter is allowed. And, yet, in our minds we understand the meaning completely and exactly in both cases.

Posted by: steve at June 23, 2004 02:30 PM
I expect this kind of authoritarian crap from people like Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott, but what on earth is the matter with Ted Kennedy and John Edwards and Hillary Clinton?

Uh... because they're into athoritarian crap on a daily basis. They just forgot to compartmentalize today :-/

Posted by: Bill at June 23, 2004 02:47 PM

Great post michael. Not a knee-jerking high school reaction. The right(religious) has a firm grip on our society. This is just one of many examples. And we have 100 wonderfull senators representing a small proportion of the population. It's votes such as these that make me want to throw in the towel on our country.

Posted by: Bob at June 23, 2004 02:52 PM

The difference is that in both cases the former is prohibited and the latter is allowed. And, yet, in our minds we understand the meaning completely and exactly in both cases.

I had a friend in college who was a very pious Christian. She said that when someone cut her off in traffic, she wouldn’t curse, she’d say ‘vacuum’ – because if the other driver was reading her lips, he’d think she said ‘f-word you’.

I asked her, if he thinks you said fuck you, isn’t the effect the same? Why not just say it?

She said that it didn’t matter what the driver thought. Jesus would know what she really said, and that was what mattered.

Posted by: mary at June 23, 2004 02:53 PM

"Since when did our entire senate, including almost all the Democratic Party..."
A long time ago. Remember Tipper Gore?

I've gone from being a libertarian who holds my nose and votes Democrat to a libertarian who holds my nose & votes Republican because the Dems are absolotely 0% better (and sometimes worse *) at protecting civil liberties and social liberties, while the Republicans are at least marginally better on economic liberties and gun rights.

  • there are a very few brave politicians questioning the wisdom of the War On (Some) Drugs. Most are Republicans. And when it comes to free speech, the Democrats have this big problem for me when it comes to "PC" type issues.
Posted by: ralph phelan at June 23, 2004 03:22 PM

Hmm. Aren't these the same guys who want to cap your damages at $250,000.00 if you're maimed by a negligent physician?

So one "fuck" is worth the same as, say, having the wrong leg amputated. Fascinating . . .

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 23, 2004 03:29 PM

Bob, it is totally a knee jerking high school reaction.

"The Senate decided it wants to fine every single person"

The law was already in place. The Senate simply increased the fine.

The entire post borders on hysteria... for what? On a law that has been on the books for all of Totten's life? And now Totten is discovering that the law exists? This is actually very funny, and reveals where Totten really lies. This post reveals why he will never make it in the world as a writer.

Also, Senators are not supposed to represent the people, they are supposed to represent the states. And yes, there is a difference between the two.

I do enjoy the 'religious right' conspiracy theories. Totten mocks these conspiracy theorists when it comes to foreign policy yet he practices them himself when it comes to domestic policy. Michael isn't a consistant thinker.

Posted by: Jonathan at June 23, 2004 03:34 PM

Jonathan: The entire post borders on hysteria... for what?

It is a rant, Jonathan. Opinion writers rant sometimes. It is our prerogative.

This post reveals why he will never make it in the world as a writer.

That was a really lame attempt at an insult, Jonathan. I already make a middle class living as a writer, enough to buy a nice three-bedroom Victorian house and with enough money left over for world travel and eating out constantly. And I do better every year. If you wish to wound me, you'll have to try much harder. I'd like to remind you of my troll policy, however.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2004 03:53 PM

Isn't "your right to swing your fist stops at my chin" kind of the same thing as "your right to say f**k stops at my ears"?

...or "your right to smoke stops at my lungs"?

It isn't only the 'religious right' that's being totalitarian in our society. Try saying "n****r" or "camel-jockey" (not that I would, or that anyone should...but it's still a country of "free speech", right?) on a college campus today and see how far you'd get...yet words like "Nazi" and "fascist" are freely used to describe people who think like I do.

Posted by: stumbley at June 23, 2004 04:24 PM

I expect this kind of authoritarian crap from people like Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott, but what on earth is the matter with Ted Kennedy and John Edwards and Hillary Clinton?

Isn't what's wrong with them the fact that these provisions were attached to a defense appropriations bill ... so that to vote against them, they also had to vote against additional resources to the military?

I'm no expert on Senate procedures ... what would it have taken to get these provisions out of the defense bill so they could be voted on separately. And how did they get in there in the first place?

Posted by: Mork at June 23, 2004 04:30 PM

Stumbley: Isn't "your right to swing your fist stops at my chin" kind of the same thing as "your right to say f**k stops at my ears"?

No. See First Ammendment.

I wrote "fuck" in my post. It reached your eyes. It was my right.

I don't use profanity much on my blog, but I did so on purpose in this particular post.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2004 04:43 PM

Mork: Isn't what's wrong with them the fact that these provisions were attached to a defense appropriations bill...

Yeah, that too.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2004 04:44 PM

Michael,

I generally like this blog and find many of your posts interesting. Nevertheless, partially as a result of reading this blog, I find I have less respect for the conspicuously nonpartisan and more respect for party faithful from both sides of the aisle.

Last week you wrote a post claiming the "culture war" was meaningless to you and thought focussing on it was silly. What you apparently meant was that you've chosen a side and it's an essential part of your political outlook.

I'll give you an example of a meaningless issue raised by fools. The elder President Bush made a comment that he didn't like broccoli, and it wasn't on the White House menu. Some (daft) partisans claimed this was a big deal. Whatever your position on the issues of the day, any sane person knows that whether the president eats broccoli doesn't matter. If you react to an issue the same way you react to some politicians food choices (by thinking and saying "Who cares?"), this is an indication that you really don't care. If you react with great emotion and a specific position, this is a strong hint that you do care. You do care about the culture wars.

On a more serious note, you have often claimed you thought the War on Terror is all important. You have recently stated you can't decide who to support because of problems like Abu Ghraib. You say this despite knowing Bush is fundamentally serious about the WoT and Kerry isn't.

Even if I grant every rumor, accept complicity for specific acts up to the highest level, and further accept these were errors at every level, conferring no military or tactical benefits at all, your position still makes no sense.

There is a difference between pointing to a problem, even a grave problem, and insisting it be cleaned up, and claiming this throws your support into question. You've demonstrated you don't understand the difference. After all, FDR rounded up Japanese Americans and threw them into concentration camps (with support from the national ACLU). He gave major aid and support to the 2 greatest mass murderers of the 20th century, Stalin and Mao. I'd argue the first was a mistake, but that the second, far more terrible choice, was correct.

Do you still support WWII and FDR despite numerous mistakes that dwarf any made in the WoT? You do? Good. It's nice to know you're so brave and resolute against yesterday's Fascists, who lost, are dead and buried, aren't a threat today, and that you will "bravely" hold an opinion no one you care about will assail you for. It would be nicer if you'd display even a fraction of that seriousness when dealing with today's Fascists, who are a current threat.

You should realize that all serious WARS will lead to errors (even morally debateable and morally indefensible errors). The problem isn't a particular error. The problem is that when we hit a problem, you run.

I don't walk away thinking you're a free thinker. I instead get the impression you're muddy in your thinking and you can't be relied upon to stay the course. When there is a problem, you'll run, to quote Al Bundy, "like a Frenchman from a popgun."

I believe the WoT really is important. I'm much closer to you on social issues than, for example, George W Bush. I'd vote for Bush over you with no hesitation at all because he's fundamentally serious about the thing I care most about and can be relied upon to see it through. You can't.

Posted by: Lewis at June 23, 2004 05:49 PM

Lewis - "seriousness" ain't much use without competence and accountability. But then, I guess being a partisan gives you the advantage of not having to "muddy" your thinking with considerations like that.

BTW - Michael - I posted a delayed response to your series of posts on terror and totalitarianism on that other thread. Please don't feel you have to respond, but I thought I owed you a response to what you had written.

Posted by: Mork at June 23, 2004 06:13 PM

Mork,

Which thread was that? I went looking but couldn't figure out which one it was...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2004 06:22 PM

The June 19 post linking to the beheading photos.

Posted by: Mork at June 23, 2004 06:24 PM

"She said that it didn’t matter what the driver thought. Jesus would know what she really said, and that was what mattered."

It's late at night, and I know this is "off-topic", but I've come to appreciate people who show self-restraint in their language. Does this mean that foul language should be punished by law? Of course not. But I do think people diminish themselves when they resort to using one or more of the famous seven dirty words (eight, if you live in a trailer park.)

It took me a long time to clean up my language. Many evenings washing my mouth out with soap in front of my young daughters. Ultimately it was my Asian buddies that turned the corner for me. They are wonderfully self-restrained and became great role models.

Anyway, MJT, your foul mouth feels very out of character even when ranting about dirty words.

It comes across as a trifle silly.

Posted by: bob at June 23, 2004 08:25 PM

MJT writes: but what on earth is the matter with Ted Kennedy and John Edwards and Hillary Clinton? Oh, and John Kerry too.

My guess is that everybody voted "yea" for the same reason Breaux voted "nea."

From the article: Other senators added language to strike down FCC rules that would allow big media companies to grow larger.

Many Senators, in both parties, were pissed when the FCC decided to relax the media ownership caps.

They probably believe that it's more important to their constituents to roll back that controversial regulation than to worry about Sen. Brownback's puritanism - especially after "Janetgate."

It's a shame that the two concepts need to be tied together - and in a Defense Authorization bill no less.

I guess this is an illustration of the saying about those who love the law or sausage have never watched either being made.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at June 23, 2004 08:28 PM

Mork says: Lewis - "seriousness" ain't much use without competence and accountability. But then, I guess being a partisan gives you the advantage of not having to "muddy" your thinking with considerations like that.

Mork,

The counter-arguement is what's the value of "competence and accountability" without seriousness. Something Mr. Kerry has yet to prove.

I think Lewis is trying to drive home the point that people need to do triage during this election and prioritize life and death issues. It is easy to find the fault lines of both parties and wash one's hands of voting for either candidate. But a non-decision this year could be simply an excuse for avoiding responsibility.

Posted by: bob at June 23, 2004 08:45 PM

No argument there, Bob. These are difficult questions. The way that partisans make them easy is by pretending, like Lewis, that unpleasant facts don't exist.

Posted by: Mork at June 23, 2004 09:07 PM

Mork writes: "seriousness" ain't much use without competence and accountability.

The existance of a problem is not a proof of lack of competence or accountability. In isolation, it doesn't even rise to the level of evidence thereof. Perhaps a software engineering adage will help here. If you are faced with any nontrivial problem, and you don't find 3 distinct solutions to the problem and 3 problems with each solution, then you have discovered that you don't understand the problem and you don't understand any of the potential solutions.

In war, there will be problems. Those who urge war and then go wobbly when there are problems which are historically very minor compared to the undertaking are worse than those who wanted to stay out in the first place.

Remember, there was starvation in Western Europe 1 year after the end of WWII. In Iraq, there wasn't even the predicted refugee problem. There are more Iraqis returning to the country than leaving it.

There is a difference between demanding investigation of and accountability for mistakes and not realizing that mistakes will happen in any serious undertaking.

Michael has previously noted a love of history. If he doesn't understand how minor the problems have been compared to similar undertakings, then he doesn't understand history at all.

Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Lewis

Posted by: Lewis at June 23, 2004 09:23 PM

Michael, I was not trying to insult you. I am referring to 'writer' as in the field of 'thinker', someone people pay to know your thoughts and who is not being leveraged. A technical writer is technically a writer, but is not a writer in the political commentator sense. What is a blog but the author basically emailing himself and others on a webpage?

Go look up a popular book. It will say, "Best selling book" not "best written book". A real writer is measured by the passive income he gets, not earned income such as technical writing. Even Shakespeare followed this formula until he could retire.

Michael, you were at your best with your "Iraq is not Vietnam" type articles. But lately, it seems downhill from there. Is something wrong?

BTW, the First Amendment does not apply to the citizenry, only to the government. "There shall be no law..." means no law. The argument is that the public airwaves are owned by the government (who can regulate them as they please). The Supreme Court, however, ruled that the Internet is not a public airwaves, that it is classified as 'conversation'. So why the disordered rant?

Posted by: Jonathan at June 23, 2004 09:42 PM

"Another question Michael is where are the small government conservatives on this one?"...

An excellent question, SPC67, an excellent question indeed. I would argue that the more libertarian-leaning, small-government style of conservatism is pretty much dead and buried under George W. Bush. To say the words "big government conservatism" used to be a contradiction in terms. But I don't think that's so much true, anymore.

Bill Clinton declared in 1996 that the "era of big government is over". I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that the era of big government being over, is over. September 11 changed everything and when people start instinctually trusting the government more in one area of policy (i.e. in foreign policy), the other areas (social and economic) naturally tend to follow for some reason. I don't quite understand it, maybe it's pyschological, but history is filled with examples of this happening (The Progressive Era comes to mind).

I kind of think we've maybe begun to enter into a second Progressive Era these past couple of years. Can't prove it. Just call it a hunch. Only time will tell.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at June 23, 2004 09:42 PM

Hmmm . . . somthing about the tone of some of these criticisms makes me think of John Maynard Keynes' famous retort:

"When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do, sir?"

Posted by: Mork at June 23, 2004 09:55 PM

Right on Michael ! This is one Republican who agrees with you totally on this issue. Yes it is true that our culture has been coarsened. There is alot in pop culture today that I find negative and over-the-top decadent. But I think these things are self-correcting. And I sure do not want a bunch of nannies in DC telling us what to say or think. The last paragraph in your post says it all as far as I am concerned. I am ashamed of some people in my party. They may mean well, but they don't have much wisdom.

I am a gay man, and I also have BIG problems with this disgusting Defense of Marriage Act, mainly because I just don't think the Constitution should be cluttered up with crap like that, whether it comes from the Right or the Left. The Left has been guilty of such in the past. The constitution is NOT to be used for social policy ! That is up to Congress.

The Bush administration has done alot of things with which I disagree. Sometimes Bush almost seems like he is a hybrid between Lyndon Johnson and Pat Robertson when it comes to domestic policy !
I am more of a PJ O'Rourke / Andrew Sullivan Republican...in other words a TRUE Republican.

Right now the overriding concern for me is the fight against Islamo-fascism, so I have to stick with Bush.

I will not become a Democrat, but I have to say I like your style. Michael, you are a liberal in the TRUE sense of the word ( which is a good thing ). Keep up the good work. The Democrats AND alot of Republicans need your sanity !

Posted by: freeguy at June 23, 2004 10:08 PM

Jonathan: Michael, you were at your best with your "Iraq is not Vietnam" type articles. But lately, it seems downhill from there. Is something wrong?

I think you find yourself disagreeing with me more often and there isn't anything more to it than that. My last TCS article was my most popular ever. I can track this with technorati, traffic counters, and number of emails received. So your suggestion that I'm going "downhill" does not match the data. Everything's peachy on my end.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2004 10:34 PM

Maybe the government shouldn't be in the decency business, but broadcast TV is a wasteland of blowjob and sex jokes -- and it's way too pervasive to prevent kids from being exposed.

It is almost impossible to watch any show with a pre-teen or younger and not hear some cheap off-color joke (because the writers mostly aren't capable of writing anything really funny so they go for the easy laugh).

Sure, kids talk about it in school and with their friends, but most know that it's not a subject to discuss with their grandparents or teachers. There's no reason for broadcast TV to legitimize blowjob jokes for the masses.

It's easy to avoid such talk on the radio, but the whole slippery slope argument works both ways. And I, for one, could care less, if TV executives are more cautious about the garbage they put on.

If this makes me a fascist, so be it.

Posted by: anne at June 24, 2004 06:47 AM

Anne,

I agree with you. Parents are fascists by necessity.

Posted by: bob at June 24, 2004 07:30 PM

Government by the people. Of the people. And for the people.

Look anything like that anymore?

Posted by: IXLNXS at June 28, 2004 07:50 PM
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