Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Congressional Indecency Hypocrites

Fireworks flew on my radio show today when Senator Kit Bond called in, upset that I was saying he and other elected officials are hypocrites.

I was talking with Nancy Seligman of the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington about their recent report that names those in the moral values crowd who accept contributions from corporations that make money from pornography. Bond tried to go on the offensive and deflect the issue, but I wouldn't allow him to continually spew political rhetoric without answering direct questions.

The corporations in questions aren't Playboy and Larry Flynt, but Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, Marriott International, Echostar, General Motors (which owned Direct TV until recently) and others. They all make millions from porn being delivered to houses and hotel rooms across America. There's nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with politicians making all that noise about indecency while taking funding from companies that are in the business.

Bond argued that CREW and I were being unfair because pornography is not the major business of these corporations. No, but it does bring them millions of dollars in profits. If Bond is going to let them off the hook because the majority of their money comes from the other parts of their business, let's look at what he and his congressional pals have done with their recent indecency legislation.

I'm on the air for about a thousand hours a year. Under the new broadcast indecency law, if I spent even one minute on my show doing something the government deemed indecent, or if one of the verboten words were to slip out onto the airwaves and complaints were filed with the FCC, both I and the radio company I work for could be fined $500,000. A half million dollars for a single instance! Even if that was not a substantial representation of the kind of show I do -- 1 minute out of 60,000 in a year! -- that wouldn't matter.

If I'm being held to that standard -- as CBS was for Janet Jackson's one-second nipple exposure, as NBC was for Bono's fleeting utterance of the F-word at an awards show -- why shouldn't senators and congressmen be held to that same standard? They're the ones setting the rules here, but they won't play by them.

Note that I'm not saying that these companies should get out of the porn business, nor that they don't have the right to make campaign contributions (technically, they're made through corporate PACs, but that's just a loophole in the goofy election laws). I'm saying that when politicians take this money with one hand, they can't use the other hand to slap broadcasters, video game makers, and other content providers, all in the name of "moral values."

Bond is not alone in this. Joe Lieberman, who used to hand out Silver Sewer awards to the producers of videos he deemed "immoral," has taken thousands of these porn-tainted dollars. Both Bond and Lieberman, and the others named in the CREW report, should either clean their own houses or leave ours alone.

They won't, which is why I call them hypocrites.

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Monday, March 21, 2005

The Schiavo Case

Dear Tom Delay,

If I end up in a persistent vegetative state, keep your stinking nose out of my business.

The decision about what to do with me will lie strictly with my family, and your input will be even less welcome than Carson Kressley in James Dobson's bedroom.

You and others in your party keep claiming you're for "smaller government." What I didn't realize until now is that you're really in favor of small-minded government. Turning the Schiavo case into a national issue to engage your voter base, holding hearings on steroids when you have no authority to do anything -- you keep inserting yourself into matters that Congress has no business being in.

I had to laugh this weekend when Terri's mother, Mary Schindler, told reporters, "There are some congressmen that are trying to stop this bill (the one you're pushing to circumvent the 19 courts that have already ruled in this case). Please don't use my daughter's suffering for your own personal agenda."

She meant those comments for her opponents, but they ring even truer for you, Mr. DeLay, as you live up to your surname and exploit a family's agony for political purposes.

Michael Schiavo was right on the money yesterday when he told CNN, "I am outraged, and I think that every American in this country should also be outraged, that this government is trampling all over a personal family matter that has been adjudicated in the courts for seven years. I think that the Congress has more important things to discuss."

You can't have it both ways. You and your colleagues regularly rant about judicial activism and states' rights. You claim to be the party of law and order. Yet what you're doing is nothing more than political activism in an attempt to overturn and usurp the laws and courts of the state of Florida.

A Missourian named Pete Busalacchi knows something about this battle. He fought John Ashcroft several years ago when his daughter, Christine, fell into a persistent vegetative state. Ashcroft and several special interest groups tried everything they could to keep Pete from implementing his decision -- an awful, horrible choice to have to make, but one that Pete and his family had the sole right to make as Christine's next of kin. Shame on those who intruded.

I asked Pete on Friday whether Terri Schiavo will be aware enough to suffer with the feeding tube removed. He said that when the same was done with Christine, he asked her doctor if she needed morphine to counteract her pain. The doctor told him that Christine wouldn't feel any pain because her brain was no longer capable of it -- if she were given morphine, it would be only to ease the minds of the family.

Unlike Terri Schiavo, I've been smart enough to put my desires in writing, and my immediate family knows my wishes, as I do for them. Should tragedy strike and any of us fall into a persistent vegetative state, neither you Mr. Delay, nor any other politician should lift even one finger to intervene.

There is no victory in cases like this, there is only heartbreak. Shame on you for manipulating this story for your own means.

An American Who Wants To Be Left Alone

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Celebrity Poker Crackdown

Over the weekend, 21 men were busted by the Illinois State Police for having a charity poker tournament in the clubhouse of a golf course in Cahokia. The cops confiscated $4,500 bucks, meaning each guy had put a couple hundred into the pot. My goodness, what a horrible offense. You can see why the authorities had to crackdown on this gambling ring.

Or not.

This week, in virtually every company in America, people are filling out their March Madness office pool brackets. Each week, McDonald's or some other fast food chain has peel-and-win contests where buying a cup of soda can win you supersized fries. Every state in the union has a lottery. I'm pretty sure the Pope has a weekly bingo night. In Washington, DC, there's a weekly high-stakes poker game that the Chief Justice of The US Supreme Court has played in for years.

So let's not be hypocritical about gambling. I'm not just saying this because I'm a poker player. I understand that if events like this were allowed to spread, other groups might sit down and raise money for a charity while having fun and perhaps taking home a few bucks, and we wouldn't want that, would we?

Someone suggested to me that the local casinos might be behind the crackdown, but that's unlikely. There are three "legal" poker rooms in the St. Louis area, and they all do pretty good business. The casinos that run them bring in an average of $60,000,000 a month all told. I can't see them fretting over a few thousand bucks in a home game here or there -- they surely know they'll never stamp out all the home games and friendly neighborhood tournaments. The casinos probably view those games as a farm system, with players who might eventually step onto the boats and put some real money down.

This is not the first time Illinois has cracked down on the booming poker craze -- anyone notice the big ratings for all the poker on TV? -- but it should be the last. In poker terms, that would be a good laydown.