The (Not Quite) Daily Stern

The (Not Quite) Daily Stern

: WHERE’S THE BEEF? I was just thinking this weekend that there’s now a good chance the indecent indecency legislation that was running through and is now hiding in Congress may not pass. The House passed its version. A Senate committee passed its. The Senate has not scheduled debate on the bill.

So perhaps naked Iraqis have displaced a naked tit in our legislators’ priorities.

And sure enough, today the NY Times wrote that the legislation is stalled.

But for all the legislative posturing, the prospects for such a measure reaching President Bush’s desk before the November election appear far less assured than they did a few months ago.

In the Senate, a measure approved by the Commerce Committee in March has yet to be scheduled for discussion by the full body. The delay in bringing the Senate bill to the floor is tied partly to the broader politics of the Senate, where Republicans, who hold a slim 51-seat majority, have had difficulty passing major bills. But for the senators themselves, there is also the peril of investing too much political capital in a divisive issue, which has pitted some social conservatives and child-advocacy groups against big broadcasters and civil rights advocates.

In addition, the Senate version contains other controversial provisions – including one that would seek to curb violent content on television, not just sex and swearing – that the House bill explicitly avoided.

“This looks like a cheap date to me,” said Charles Cook, the editor of The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political newsletter. “You come out for motherhood, apple pie and ‘decency,’ and you know it’s not going anywhere.”

Thank goodness for Congressional inefficiency and the common sense that bubbles up as a result. I know that there are legislators who knew they were supporting something unconstitutional. They convinced themselves they had to: How could you be against decency, they cried. But next at least some of them had to ask themselves: How could you be against free speech?

: KERRY, CENSOR: Some commenters tried to make hay out of John Kerry saying last week that he was in favor of broadcast content regulation where children are involved.

He has said that before. I have disagreed before. So has Stern. I don’t like Kerry for that. I don’t like him for other things, including his stand on media deregulation. But I do like him for many stands. That’s politics.

Kerry is against expanding content regulation to cable. Small favor.

: BADA BING: Adam Thierer of the Cato Institute [via Ernie Miller] wrote at NRO who his daughter would not be watching The Sopranos (I, too, shooed my kids off to bed by 9p) and why that’s his job, not Michael Powell’s:

While all parents face this same dilemma of figuring out what to let their children watch, the choice my wife and I make for our child may not be the same choice the couple across the street makes for their kids. But that’s the nature of life in a free society. It’s filled with tough choices, especially when it comes to raising kids.

There is another alternative, of course. Our government could decide for us which shows are best for our children, or perhaps just determine which hours of the day certain shows could be aired in an attempt to shield our children’s eyes and ears from them. While there are some who would welcome such a move, I would hope that there are still some other parents like me out there who aren’t comfortable with the idea of calling in Uncle Sam to play the role of surrogate parent. When government acts to restrict what our children can see or hear, those restrictions bind the rest of us as well, including the millions of Americans who have no children at all.

Even if lawmakers have the best interests of children in mind, I take great offense at the notion that government officials must do this job for me and every other American family. Censorship on an individual/parental level is a fundamental part of being a good parent. But censorship at a governmental level is an entirely different matter because it means a small handful of individuals get to decide what the whole nation is permitted to see, hear or think.


: SUCKING SUCKS: Kurt Andersen said in his Studio 360 commentary that his producers actually debated allowing his show to air “L.A. sucks” and that some public-radio affiliates bleeped that phrase. That’s how far this has gone.

The problem facing TV and radio is that to some community somewhere, saying something innocuous is going to be considered patently offensive. That’s in the nature of indiscriminate broadcast media.

Consider one contemporary slang phrase: “to suck,” meaning “to be inferior.” Now once upon a time, in the etymological mists of the 1960s and 70s, I guess this intransitive verb referred to the transitive verb — that is, to a particular sexual activity.

But it simply doesn’t anymore in the current usage. To every American child whom our “community standards” are supposedly protecting, to say that something “sucks” just mean that it’s lousy, stupid, crummy, crappy.

Uh-oh: the word