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More Aggravating Legislation

2004-02-17 - 4:29 p.m.

I don't want to kill the President. Hell, I don't want to kill anybody.

But I am at the point now where I want to go into the Oval Office, get some bungee cord, tie him to his chair, and say, "Okay, you can stay here until the end of your presidency, but you are not allowed to make any noise or sign any piece of legislation. You are on a time out until the end of your term. Now I'm going to put on Yu-Gi-Oh! and I'll bring you some peanut butter cookies and Kool-Aid later."

And also, as a nod to anyone I know who wasn't a Democrat, I should have been almost as pissed while Clinton was in office, because he did a lot of awful shit as well.

But I feel like the pernicious effect Bush has on America is so pervasive that he has to just be put in a room with some toys and whole lotta DVDs and just left there, indefinitely. Of course, I think his aides are a lot more evil than he is, and I think they should just be sent to Iraq and made the provisional government. Who knows? If they manage to survive the numerous civil wars that will plague that country over the next decade or two, they might even rise to the top of the heap and develop those weapons of mass destruction we've all been hearing so much about.

I bring all this up because of what I read today on Neil Gaiman's journal, which is one of my favorite places to dawdle online. He reported on a story that hasn't really gotten any attention, despite its immediate importance and its implications for future legislation.

As it turns out, the Department of Education has cut funding for closed captioning. And no one will say why or how.

The government provides grants for the closed captioning of programs that are considered educational and informative. Last year, the government removed a number of programs from their list, forcing these programs to seek private sponsorship--whether from networks, corporations, or charitable organizations--in order to receive closed captioning.

And, y'know, fair enough. Because if you look at the list of shows that were taken off the list, it includes a number of shows that are in no way educational or informative. Scooby Doo did not educate me, and Pokemon didn't educate my stepsister, from what I could see, and I Dream of Jeannie didn't educate my older siblings and cousins.

The problem is that no one has revealed the criteria by which various programs were taken off the air. No one even told the "panel" that decided which shows should be taken off, because the panel never convened. Panelists were contacted separately and gave reports without specifically being told what it was they were filing reports for.

Read more about it here:

and here:

First of all, like many of the other actions undertaken by this administration, this is a dumb move. This allows people to guess as to why these programs were taken off the list. The editorial mentioned above speculates that Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie were included on the list by the puritanical administration in order to reduce the exposure of the deaf to witchcraft, but that begs the question of why it was that a program about astrology was allowed on the "approved" list. And also, how on Earth is a program about astrology educational?

There's also the fact that all funding for sports programming has been cut, which is not something that you think off when you think "shows Good Ol' Boy Republicans refuse to watch." If you look at the approved list, there are numerous educational shows, particularly ones about fighting prejudice and learning about diversity, and there are also plenty of inexplicable inclusions. I think one of the most telling differences is the fact that all documentaries that center around the film industry are on the disapproved list. No distinction is drawn between "Shirtless: The Movies' Most Beautiful Men" and documentaries about Hollywood's relationship to the Holocaust, to Islam, and to Gays.

I have a distinct feeling that a documentary about Hollywood and Christianity would get left off, or even Hollywood and the Presidency. The exclusion seems to be based on the idea that Hollywood is frivolous, and therefore not educational. I, of course beg to differ.

Regardless, I think the choice of "approved" vs "disapproved" is not the main problem here. My anger comes from the secrecy with which this study was conducted. The identities of the panelists have been kept secret. The one panelist who was contacted has claimed to have never known he was a member of a panel at all, or that his report would be used to cut funding for closed captioning. Finally, the cuts were made without first giving the deaf community a chance to respond.

Now that the deaf community is responding, they are arguing that, not only are deaf children being denied the chance to see a number of programs that they might find educational or informational--after all, sports programs teach kids about athleticism and sportsmanship, while shows like Justice League, while not informational, do a lot to educate children about things like standing up for yourself and others and helping those less powerful--but deaf parents will now have a harder time screening programs for their children. After all, plenty of deaf parents have hearing children, and some deaf parents might not want their kids watching Malcolm in the Middle or The Simpsons. Their ability to screen these programs for their children is now being inhibited.

And, again, the government may have studied the arguments made by the deaf and said, "You know what, tough titties." But they didn't. They just passed legislation without even informing those who were providing the research and documentation for the legislation that their reports would serve to cut this funding.

There is no guarantee that they would have made the same recommendations if they had known about the ramifications of their reports, and no guarantee that they would have come to the same conclusions were they to have made these decisions as a panel rather than as individuals.

As Neil Gaiman said, this is news, and it's terrifying that there are no reports going on about it. This should be controversial, and yet another wake up call to the American public that those in power are entirely uninterested in the will of the people. If they are willing to be so secretive about something so relatively inocuous as funding for closed captioning--because, as I said, I'm sure that they could argue that a lot of those programs are neither educational nor informative--then what else are they willing to cover up.

What other pieces of legislation are waiting to bite us on the ass?

Eh, in terms of generalities, I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know. But I think that everyone should no about what corners our government is willing to cut, particularly when they involve oft-forgotten minority groups like the deaf, and how quietly the government is prepared to do it.

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previous - next

The End - 2005-02-11
Let's Go on With the Show - 2005-01-30
The Curse, and This Bee's a Keeper - 2005-02-01
Sisters Lolita and Matronic Explain It All for You - 2005-01-31
Cowboys and Medievalists - 2005-01-30

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