Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Flag Burning

I’d feel a lot better about the narrowly rejected Constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning if its supporters also opposed book burning.

Flag-burning is one of those pain-in-the-neck issues that has no full-fledged advocate. There’s no national organization or reliable interest group that loves burning flags. It’s an extreme tactic used in extreme situations. Anyone who might take that step someday, doesn’t even know today that they’d do it. It’s like illegalizing cutting off your own limb, when none of us have ever been trapped under an avalanche.

Brief reminder: it’s easy to emigrate from the United States. This is not North Korea. If you’re a citizen, you can leave any time you like, if you think our government is screwing up. If, instead, you decide to stay and protest, I’m guessing, despite your issues, you love our country enough to try and change it, which is why you’re lighting up Old Glory in the first place.

When someone burns the flag, it’s a signal that they believe “things have gotten out of hand,” that we’re going down a road that’s either evil or doomed or both, and they’re taking the horrific step of burning the flag to get our attention.

How is this a conservative issue? For years, conservatives have been deriding government—it’s wasteful, it interferes with business, taxes are too high. They’ve been saying they want government “so small you can drown it in a bathtub” —and yet, they want to remove a means of telling government, loudly and clearly, how angry you are, without physically harming another human being. With all the workplace, schoolyard, and government building violence going around, you’d think that burning flags would be the least urgent crime to move to center stage.

Bear in mind, this hallowed icon is so sacred that anyone who wants to stick it on any kind of advertisement can exploit it, and anyone who wants to stick it on toothpicks or t-shirts can drool on it, shrink it or sweat all over it. So let's calm down just a bit, shall we?

This amendment failed in the Senate by ONE VOTE. Had it passed, every state would have to vote on ratification. Forget floods, national security, health insurance, raging wildfires, and anything else you thought was important--instead let's spend a while arguing about something that's 110,000 per cent less likely than lightning hitting your left pinkie. While you're indoors.

It’s simply not enough to say that we’d ban flag burning because the desecration makes us uncomfortable. It should make us uncomfortable, because we love our country, and because that’s the point of the whole exercise.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bush Censorship Plan Frightens Broadcasters, Cable Companies

President Bush today formally requested that the United States Congress approve the Line Item TiVo.

The plan would allow the President to eliminate single shows, or even scenes from those shows, as a pre-emptive strike, rather than waiting to take legal action against companies after the fact.

Later, speaking to supporters in Midland, Texas, the President tried a pre-emptive strike against potential opponents of the move.

“Now, you and I know that liberals will say I’m violating on the First Amendment rights. But I’m not—‘cause it isn’t. What we’re saying is, the American people deserve the kind of hands-on leadership that prevents what’s been happening lately on television and in the internets.

“Many American television shows come to the White House weighed down with needless plotlines, jokes about livestock, news stories with “information,” and behavior that would outrage any normal American. I’m just offering myself as a normal American, to fight this content here in Washington, so you don’t have to fight it at home.”

Tonight, Democratic firebrand Joe Lieberman, speaking on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” leveled his fiercest attack so far on the Bush Administration. “Although I agree with the President that filth is deplorable, this was probably not the best way to go about this at this time.” The Connecticut senator joined with nine other prominent Democrats in their vow to vote against the bill, and if necessary, join together to send a polite but firm letter to the White House.

ESPN Announces New English-Language Sports Channel

Cable’s dominant sports network, ESPN, a Disney-owned company, will launch a new English language version of their popular ESPN channel, executives told a packed Manhattan press conference today.

Perry Willis, Disney’s Director of Sports Programming, explained the move. “Our research suggests that an increasing number of English-speakers would watch a sports-oriented channel that fits their lifestyle.”

Baron Dillard, ESPN programming chief, played highlight video demonstrating how “Sportscenter” would differ on the two channels.

“Okay, same plays from the same game. Here’s the standard SportsCenter version:
‘People all over the world, join in, join the James Gang, James Gang, and the King takes the orb past the scepter, hollas we want pre-nup and digs some gold of his own, on the backside of town. Bah-wang, Bucky! Fourth quarter, Sixers say, take me to your Libra, in this case, birthday boy A-I, who must be given in the form of an Answer, Alex, and says, it’s always sunny in philly,--- CASABA!!!! And he gets fouled. But, like the 64 democrats, the Cavs go all the way with LBJ. Also, it’s the fourth time this season that Larry Hughes has made more than 81% of his free throws on a Tuesday road game, a record for Cleveland 2-guards.’

“Now, the English language version:
‘LeBron James goes around two 76ers, and up over a third, to give the Cleveland Cavaliers an early lead in tonight’s game in Philadelphia. LeBron scoring 2 of his 37 points for the night. Allen Iverson brought the Sixers back within five when he gets whacked by Donyell Marshall but still sinks the off balance jumper. Cleveland wins it 91-84, and moves into first place.’”

"ESPN Rockin' English" won’t launch until November, but already critics are savaging the plan.

Professor Mark Hargreave, who teaches a seminar on Sports Media History and Cultural Dynamics at Columbia’s Furnow School of Anthropology, says, “As long as humanity has competed, a siren’s song of gibberish has accompanied it. In the Iliad, does Homer come out and say directly that Ulysses is outrun by Phidecropolis? No. The text observes that Ulysses ‘spit out his giblets.’ Fifty years ago, sports headlines featured such nonsense as ‘Harriers Nip Gamecocks in X-Town Duel,’ or Habs Nab Gabbing Gators.’ Eliminate doubletalk, and you’re left with the realization that these are merely people in funny clothes running around each other, often with a sphere involved.”

Wall Street also expressed skepticism, with Schaffner Stone Pierce media analyst Jeffrey Tate observing, “It’s a noble idea, but who’ll watch this? Who speaks English anymore? The demographics will be 45 to dead.”

Meanwhile, former coach and veteran sports color commentator Hubie Brown had this to say, “The important thing, and the Pistons already know this, is for ESPN to rotate, to pick up the open man. You see, right there, A&E tries to double team Bravo, The History Channel finds the open man, and the Learning Channel is too late, leaving Animal Planet alone for the three. Better rotation, better defense. Gotta rotate See Spot rotate. ‘Rotate, Spot, rotate!’ A perfect day for me is a ride on a merry-go-round, some rotisserie chicken, and then watching the opening credits of Happy Days.”