Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sunday Reading

The reason I’m not at Yearly Kos is that someone had to stay home and keep their eye on the news. Besides, the last time I was in Vegas I lost $200 at Slots ‘o’ Fun.

  • What Would Jesus Watch?

    Evangelical Christians are on the front lines in the battle over indecency on cable television, calling for a pick-and-choose pricing plan that would allow viewers to keep certain channels out of their homes.

    But on the opposite end of the battlefield is an opponent familiar to and even respected by evangelicals: Christian cable stations.

    The fear among Christian broadcasters is that a proposal to allow consumers to reject MTV or Comedy Central would also allow them to drop the Trinity Broadcasting Network or Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. Cutting off that access could hurt religious broadcasters.

    “We do not believe that ‘a la carte’ is the cure for the disease,” said Colby May, attorney for the Faith and Family Broadcasting Coalition, which represents Trinity and CBN, in addition to other stations. “In fact, it is a cure that may very well kill the patient.”


    But such Christian groups as Concerned Women for America say lives would be better with the a la carte plan.

    “Unfortunately, the number of inappropriate programs far outweighs the number of good,” said Lanier Swann, the group’s director of government relations. “Our issue is to protect families.”

    No, actually, their “issue” is that they want to stick their blue noses into everybody else’s business and they hate it when someone else is living their own life as they see fit. Talk about “issues…”

    Every cable system offers the option of deselecting certain channels that come into your home by programming the remote and password-protecting it. The truth may be that it’s so complicated for some adults that only their kids could do it, but am I the only one who sees the irony in a group of conservatives, who by definition hate the idea of government interference in our private lives, is turning to the government to regulate their TV watching habits?

    I think it’s a hoot that the televangelists are worried that if a la carte passes, they’ll be banished from the home as quickly as the Playboy Channel. I guess it all depends on how you define “indecent” programming.

  • A soldier who was at Haditha says through his attorney that they followed the rules of engagement.

    Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, told his attorney that several civilians were killed Nov. 19 when his squad went after insurgents who were firing at them from inside a house. The Marine said there was no vengeful massacre, but he described a house-to-house hunt that went tragically awry in the middle of a chaotic battlefield.

    “It will forever be his position that everything they did that day was following their rules of engagement and to protect the lives of Marines,” said Neal A. Puckett, who represents Wuterich in the ongoing investigations into the incident. “He’s really upset that people believe that he and his Marines are even capable of intentionally killing innocent civilians.”

    Let us hope that the truth comes out and let the chips fall where they may. I have a feeling that “rules of engagement” will become a catch-phrase that will define this case and the conduct of the war.

  • Frank Rich: Hispanics are this year’s chosen pariahs.

    Mr. Bush prides himself on being tolerant — and has hundreds of photos of himself posing with black schoolkids to prove it. But his latest marriage maneuver is yet another example of how his presidency has been an enabler of bigots, and not just those of the “pro-family” breed.

    The stars are in alignment for a new national orgy of rancor because Americans are angry. The government has failed to alleviate gas prices, the economic anxieties of globalization or turmoil in Iraq. Two-thirds of Americans believe their country is on the wrong track. The historical response to that plight is a witch hunt for scapegoats on whom we can project our rage and impotence. Gay people, though traditionally handy for that role, aren’t the surefire scapegoats they once were; support for a constitutional marriage amendment, ABC News found, fell to 42 percent just before the Senate vote. Hence the rise of a juicier target: Hispanics. They are the new gays, the foremost political piñata in the election year of 2006.


    The practitioners of such scare politics know what they’re up to. That’s why they so often share the strange psychological tic of framing their arguments in civil-rights speak. The Minuteman Project, the vigilante brigade stoking fears of an immigration Armageddon, quotes Gandhi on its Web site; its founder, Jim Gilchrist, has referred to his group as “predominantly white Martin Luther Kings.” On a Focus on the Family radio show, James Dobson and the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, positioned the campaign to deny gay civil rights as the moral equivalent of L.B.J.’s campaign to extend civil rights. James Sensenbrenner, the leading House Republican voice on immigration policy, likened those who employ illegal immigrants to “the 19th-century slave masters” that “we had to fight a civil war to get rid of.” For that historical analogy to add up, you’d have to believe that Africans voluntarily sought to immigrate to America to be slaves. Whether Mr. Sensenbrenner is out to insult African-Americans or is merely a fool is a distinction without a difference in this volatile political climate.

    Mr. Bush is a lame duck, but he still has a bully pulpit. Here is a cause he has professed to believe in since he first ran for office in Texas, and it’s threatening to boil over in an election year. Imagine if he exercised leadership and called out those who trash immigrants rather than merely mouthing homilies about tolerance and dignity.

    Tolerance and dignity are already on life-support in this debate. If the president doesn’t lead, he will have helped relegate Hispanics to the same second-class status he has encouraged for gay Americans. Compassionate conservatism, R.I.P.

    There’s a Mexican slang expression I picked up in my travels: No se deje dar gato por liebre. That literally means “Don’t let them give you a cat for a rabbit,” an old ploy at an open-air market. Its closest equivalent in English is “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” Well, it sounds like the Republicans, in all their cozying up to the Hispanic vote in 2004, are delivering up a scrawny cat to them in this latest round of scapegoating dressed up in the nice juicy rabbit of immigration reform.

  • The other reason I’m not in Vegas is that tonight is the 60th annual Tony awards, and I didn’t want to be on a plane flying back to Miami when John Lloyd Young picks up his Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for Jersey Boys. Go get it, JLY. And yes, you can bet I’ll celebrate.