17 February 2006

Priorities? We Got 'Em

Reading Darren Rovell's Sports Business Blog at ESPN.com this evening I stumbled across something that sums up the priorities of the current wielders of federal power. Darren writes (sub. req., although if you ask I'll give you my password for it):
According to USA Today, the federal government levied a larger fine on CBS ($550,000) for broadcasting the exposing of Janet Jackson's breast during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004 than the government fined the owners of an unsafe coal mine that saw 13 of their miners die in 2001. That fine was $435,000, but a judge later cut it to $3,000.
Everyone's always pulling out statistics that show how callous and misguided are the policies of our current federal government (Republican Congress included) --- when the govenment is actually guided by policy, which seems to be infrequently. I can't recall coming across a comparison that so starkly and simply achieves that end as does the above. Gross corporate negligence, perhaps willful malfeasence from some of what I've read, is met with a penalty so insignificant that I --- literally --- could pay it myself. The families of those miners --- not to mention the thousands of other miners across the country who watched the tragedy unfold while sighing "There but for the grace of God go I" before going to work in those same conditions--- deserved one week of hearings, hardly covered by the national press corps, that culminated in slap on the wrist and an admonishment unheard and likely unheeded. The story, which many of us found ourselves watching or paying attention to in spite of ourselves, gripped the nation from its breaking to to its heart-rending, confusing, mishandled conclusion. Then, after the sensation details were released and the bodies were counted, all was silent. No re-allocation of federal funds, no stepped-up inspections on suspect mines, no stricter standards. Three grand, thank you. Carry on.

One half-second of nipple at America's Greatest Excuse to Beat Your Wife (Because You Made A Stupid Bet Edition), however, will resonate in the halls of power for years. Deliberate or not, and based on the look on Janet's face I'm guessing she wasn't informed about her impending "wardrobe malfunction" before she got on stage. While no one died (though my mother had some palpitations), it was indecent and demonstrated so perfectly our precipitous slide into immorality and iniquity. And indecency will not be tolerated on our airwaves; it goes against everything America stands for and meets with a half-million dollar fine, new restrictions on programming and a crackdown on previously unenforced regulations.

But that's re-hashing the irrelevant. Of course, that's precisely for what our government has become renowned of late. The truly relevant issues are swept under the proverbial rug, empowered by acquiescent media. Just today, after so much sound and fury from across the political and journalistic landscape, both the NSA's domestic spying program and USA PATRIOT ACT inched perilously close to full government approval. Sure, there was outrage for a time. Some incredulous Representatives and Senators, including Republicans, voiced opposition to the NSA program and vowed that Congress would investigate and get to the bottom of the issue. Some did so on the Sunday morning talk shows this past weekend. Today, Sen. Pat Roberts had this to say: "An investigation at this point basically would be detrimental to this highly classified program and our efforts to reach some accommodation with the administration."

Just remember, that's Congress' duty, to make every possible effort to accommodate the administration. In case you'd forgotten Congress' true function with the past few weeks full of feints toward dissent, independent thought and, perhaps, progress. But you were wrong. Corporations still run roughshod over workers and municipalities with the complicity of our federal government garnering nary a wag of the finger; The Executive Branch assumes and brazenly asserts powers that would have made Marshal Tito blush and Congress gives so many ineffectual stern glances. Nope, you blinked and all's as it was. Just one more lump under the rug while you look at the end table wondering where your lamp went.

UPDATE: So, that was sloppy. As the excerpted quote itself notes, it was an accident in 2001 that killed 13 miners, rather than the more recent, slightly less tragic mine accident that warranted the $3000 fine. I still believe the rest of the rant holds water though. Still, I apologize for being incorrect. At least there were links this time.


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