December 1, 2005

Is Bush at a “Ranch?” Word Controversy

Posted by Eric Jaffa
August 17, 2005 @ 6:46 pm
Filed under: Media Watch’s “War Room” by Tim Grieve is going to change its language:

We’re not playing cowboy anymore The readers write, and what a lot of them are writing these days is this: We should stop referring to a certain 1,600-acre parcel of land in Texas as a “ranch.” Mission accomplished. From the beginning, the presidential-getaway-as-ranch has been a construct, a way to make a millionaire from Yale look like some kind of workaday cowpoke. Just before Bush left Washington for his latest vacation, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the trips to Crawford give the president time to “shed the coat and tie and meet with folks out in the heartland and hear what’s on their minds.”

It’s not clear how many heartland folks Bush is hearing as he roars through Crawford in a motorcade of air-conditioned SUVs. And it’s not like the locals are welcome to cross the Secret Service barricades and hang out with him back at the former pig farm he calls home. As the Christian Science Monitor noted a few years back, the Bush property is located seven miles outside of Crawford, and you can’t see much of it even if you make the trek out: “Orange signs posted along the narrow road warn ‘No Stopping,’ ‘No Standing,’ ‘No Parking,’ and when people do try to stop, there’s not much to see except a pop-up security barrier at the gate.”

We haven’t been on the land ourselves, of course, but we hear tell that Bush isn’t exactly roughing it when he’s there. There’s a 10,000-square-foot house built of limestone and an 11-acre manmade pond stocked with bass and other fish for the president’s amusement. There’s nothing wrong with that; we think the president is entitled to whatever creature comforts he can afford. And if that means he’s got himself a “haven” down in Texas, as Laura Bush says, that’s fine with us — even if it sounds a little more Martha S. than George W.

You won’t catch the president and his image-makers calling the Crawford property a “haven,” however. It’s always a ranch for them, even if it isn’t. Our dictionary defines “ranch” as either “an establishment for the grazing and rearing of horses, cattle, or sheep that usually includes the buildings occupied by the owner and employees with the adjacent barns and corrals” or “a farm of any size usually devoted to the raising of one particular specialty.” The president isn’t rearing a lot of horses, cattle or sheep down at Crawford. So unless a fabricated political image counts as “one particular specialty,” the president’s estate doesn’t fit the definition of a “ranch.” We won’t be calling it one anymore.

Most people don’t hear the word “ranch” and think of “a 10,000-square-foot house built of limestone.”

I prefer the word “estate” for this place Bush acquired in 1999: a big plot of land for residential purposes.

Reporters looking for another phrase can say “house,” “property” or “vacation home.”


Broward County’s “Diversity” Board Gets Time-Out

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 17, 2005 @ 9:57 am
Filed under: Schools

After a battle over the innocuous “We Are Family” video that had some observers questioning its commitment to ‘diversity,’ the Broward County school board’s diversity committee will likely be temporarily disbanded and given a cooling-off period.

Meanwhile, reports that the diversity committee’s lightning rod, Steve Kane, has stepped down: “In announcing he is stepping down Kane said that ‘gay activists’ were ‘bigots’ in their opposition to him. He said that his conservative Christian viewpoint should be on the committee.”

The school board is in the process of settling a lawsuit over equality issues between predominately black and predominately white schools. The committee’s chair worries that the latest move will jeopardize the suit’s settlement.

The diversity committee was tasked five years ago with monitoring the district’s compliance with a lawsuit settlement. Citizens Concerned for Our Children had filed suit to ensure equity between predominantly black schools and white schools. .

‘’[The school district] has been late with their reports for several years,'’ said activist and CCC member Mary Fertig. “I’m not sure how they are going to get it out on time.'’

Board members wanted to vote Tuesday on whether to dissolve the panel for two months, but School Board attorney Bob Vignola said any vote needs to be advertised to the public.

Many board members were disgusted by comments made during the committee’s discussion of the video, which features popular cartoon characters teaching tolerance.

The diversity committee rejected using the video in schools, as did a screening panel created by Superintendent Frank Till.

Former committee member Steve Kane, a conservative radio talk show host, called gay activists “devious, devious people.'’

At its Aug. 3 meeting, the School Board reaffirmed its policies toward tolerance and diversity, and distanced itself from comments made by somecommittee members.

‘’I am tired of this board being labeled as bigots,'’ said board member Maureen Dinnen Tuesday. “And I don’t want this committee to meet until we have a workshop on it.'’

The board is scheduled to meet again in September to discuss ways to revamp the panel.

More in the Miami Herald.

1 Comment

Aristo What?

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 17, 2005 @ 9:46 am
Filed under: Obscene!


Disney’s Aristocats has not been rereleased.

Repeat: The Aristocats has not been rereleased.

So please, don’t take your kids to see the 4:55 showing of The Aristocrats.

From the Denver Post (reprinted in the Arizona Central):

One of the most obscenity-laden movies ever made arrived in theaters Friday, reminding a jaded populace that there are still things you just can’t say out loud.

AristocatThe controversial, unrated documentary “The Aristocrats,” in which a series of stand-up comics tell and retell one very, very dirty joke, is proof that mere words can still shock.

The AMC theater chain has declined to show it, and some family and cultural watchdogs are denouncing it sight unseen.

“The Aristocrats” contains no nudity, sex or violence, just unimaginably aggressive assemblages of filthy words. It poses, however tacitly, a question: Can words, even those couched as entertainment, cross a line where people should toss up their hands and announce, “Enough”?

Combined with the obscenities in family-marketed movies such as “The Bad News Bears” and “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “The Aristocrats” has pop-culture observers urging moviegoers to know what they’re getting into.


Penn Jillette, half of the magic team Penn & Teller and co-creator of “The Aristocrats,” Aristocratdelights in shocking audiences. A cable show in which he investigated common assumptions was titled “Bulls–!” Contrarian as always, Jillette claims his movie celebrates basic moral values.

“What could be more American than a dirty joke, which combines humor and free speech?” he asked by phone from Las Vegas. “Maybe if you’ve had an incident in your past, you shouldn’t come see this movie.

After my parents died, I watched an episode of ‘Columbo’ that had a funeral in it, and I broke down. That’s not Peter Falk’s fault. I shouldn’t have been watching ‘Columbo’ at that point in my life. Don’t condemn ice cream just because it makes some people fat.”

Jillette said he knows “The Aristocrats” has prompted walkouts. “Shock is a pretty nutty word,” he said. “If anyone is truly shocked, they shouldn’t have been at this movie.”


G4 To Boldly Go…

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 17, 2005 @ 9:36 am
Filed under: Video Games

The cable network for diehard gamers, G4, will air a special program about sex in video games. (You remember the Grand Theft Auto hoo-ha, right?)

From Punchjump:

The special will provide insight on how sexuality is used in games and how it continues to evolve. Discussions wil include XXX efforts on the first Atari console to today’s ‘Hot Coffee’ controversy. Itwill include commentary from retailers, developers, press, and parents to discuss sexual content in today’s video games.

“The recent controversy and increasing concerns over sex in gaming has fueled debates among a wide range of opinion-makers — from developers to the White House,” said Peter M. Green, SVP of Programming & Production, G4. “As an authority on the videogame industry, we are in a unique position to provide an extensive and objective inside look at all sides of the topic with this new G4 investigative report.”

Guests will include Ed Fries, co-creator of the Xbox; Seth Schiesel, Technology Culture writer, New York Times; Melissa Caldwell, Parents Television Council; Leland Yee, California Assemblyman; and members of the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

“Sex in Games” will air on Tuesday, August 23, at 11 p.m. Eastern.


Poetic Wardrobe Malfunction Bares “Breast,” Gets Garrison Keillor Canned

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 17, 2005 @ 9:29 am
Filed under: Obscene!

Of all the…

A Kentucky NPR station cancelled Garrison Keillor’s “A Writer’s Almanac” amid concerns of its “offensive” content. Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac is a five-minute program during which the popular baritone discusses great works of literature and poetry.

From the AP:

Recent poems had included words such as “breast” and the phrase “get high.” Another included suggestive sexual content, according to WUKY General Manager Tom Goddell.

He said there were no listener complaints, but station officials had worried about recent moves by the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on language it considered obscene.

“There’s been something like $18 million in fines in the last year,” Goddell told The Associated Press. “That’s enough to get our attention.”

After listeners complained about the cancellation, WUKY reversed its decision. “I think our community has spoken and I think this isn’t an issue for them,” Goddell said.

Keillor said Monday he was mystified by the initial decision to pull the show, noting the word “breast” has been used literally and figuratively by poets since Shakespeare.

“We’ve had a lot of response to ‘The Writer’s Almanac,’ most of it favorable,” Keillor said. “I don’t think it’s ever been taken off or been censored before.”

Keillor added, with a laugh: “It’s an honor to be taken off the air. I had to wait until I was 63. You are nobody in radio until you’ve been fired at least once, and I’ve never been fired. At least it’s vindication.”

For the record, here’s the offending “breast” poem.

Curse of the Cat Woman
by Edward Field

It sometimes happens
that the woman you meet and fall in love with
is of that strange Transylvanian people
with an affinity for cats.

You take her to a restuarant, say, or a show,
on an ordinary date, being attracted
by the glitter in her slitty eyes and her catlike walk,
and afterwards of course you take her in your arms
and she turns into a black panther
and bites you to death.

Or perhaps you are saved in the nick of time
and she is tormented by the knowledge of her tendency:
That she daren’t hug a man
unless she wants to risk clawing him up.

This puts you both in a difficult position—
panting lovers who are prevented from touching
not by bars but by circumstance:
You have terrible fights and say cruel things
for having the hots does not give you a sweet temper.

One night you are walking down a dark street
And hear the pad-pad of a panther following you,
but when you turn around there are only shadows,
or perhaps one shadow too many.

You approach, calling, “Who’s there?”
and it leaps on you.
Luckily you have brought along your sword
and you stab it to death.

And before your eyes it turns into the woman you love,
her breast impaled on your sword,
her mouth dribbling blood saying she loved you
but couldn’t help her tendency.

So death released her from the curse at last,
and you knew from the angelic smile on her dead face
that in spite of a life the devil owned,
love had won, and heaven pardoned her.

1 Comment

FCC Falderol Falls

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 17, 2005 @ 9:19 am
Filed under: PTC, FCC

Let’s all let out a cautiously celebratory “Woo Hoo”: The FCC reports that indecency complaints in the first quarter of 2005 declined precipitously.

From the LA Times:

But that doesn’t necessarily mean radio and TV stations have cleaned up their act. Instead, FCC officials attributed the marked drop — which saw complaints plummet from 317,833 to 157,650 from one quarter to the next — to the end of e-mail and write-in campaigns aimed at certain television and radio stations. The report did not identify which organizations were behind the campaigns or which broadcasters were targeted.

In early 2004, religious and parent groups across the country mobilized to support stricter moral standards in broadcasting after Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl halftime show. In the quarter that included the exposure of the pop singer’s right breast on live television, the FCC received 693,080 complaints about indecent or obscene programming.

On the other side of the coin, however, the Times reports that complaints about cable and satellite programming increased. The FCC did not reveal what percentage of those complaints were indecency-related. It would be a mostly moot point anyway, since the FCC has no jurisdiction over cable and satellite naughtiness.

What does this mean?

TV has been sanitized to Brent Bozell’s satisfaction? (No.) The PTC is falling asleep on the job? (Not likely.) People are finally putting the issue in some perspective, thanks to activists like you? (We’d like to think so.)

There’s also a slightly sinister subplot in all this. The Parents Television Council has lately been focusing its efforts on MTV, F/X, HBO, and video game makers.

They’re not slowing down. They’re branching out.