We learned Wednesday that the Federal Communications Commission has proposed
a $3.6 million fine against numerous CBS stations and affiliates concerning a 2004 episode of "Without a Trace" that included "teenage boys and girls participating in a sexual orgy." The FCC also upheld its historic $550,000 fine against CBS for the Janet Jackson incident during the Super Bowl two years ago.
Meanwhile, the Sago mine - where 12 people died in January - was cited 208 times in 2005. The largest single fine, by comparison, was a mere $440. Not only that, but it was also reported that federal inspectors had repeatedly determined that the violations at Sago affected only one person, doing so to avoid the larger fines that come when more miners are involved.
Under the Bush administration, the winner of the battle between lives and breasts has been breasts. Every time.
This disparity is no surprise when you consider the political climate in which these seemingly dissimilar events occurred. On the one hand you have an administration in the pocket of the religious right, a group more interested in being America's morality police than heeding the true meaning of the Bible. On the other hand you have an administration in the pocket of Big Business, who have convinced those in charge that minor things like "safety violations" and "life-threatening conditions" should never get in the way of the bottom line. These special interests have combined to steer America drastically off course.
The religious right has repeatedly proven that it's far easier to be against something than for anything. These conservatives speak endlessly about "personal responsibility," yet they don't trust anyone else to exercise their own judgment. What's more, they can't do for themselves what would make all of our lives so much easier: Change the channel. A democracy threatened by Howard Stern, SpongeBob SquarePants and Jackson's nipple is one that's in more trouble than anyone could imagine.
Not only do these people think they know what's best for everyone else, but they also harbor a worldview that dooms those who don't agree with them to an eternity in Hell. How can you reason with that? Complaints over nudity or foul language are bad enough. But the religious right has taken things a step further, using rhetoric they criticize the "terrorists" for using and physically attacking their opponents. Not very Christlike, is it?
While the religious right is busy making the world a more boring place, Big Business is busy making it a more dangerous place. We learned after the Sago tragedy that the Bush administration had made cronyism and profit more important than protecting those doing this most dangerous work. Mine safety positions were slashed. Budgets were trimmed. Former industry insiders were hired in oversight roles. All because coal companies spent a lot of money to help elect the president.
All the while, those whose best interest the administration should have had in mind - the miners - found themselves working in a more dangerous environment. Arguing against stringent regulation, mine owners conspired with the government to keep fines down, no matter how portentous the growing tally of violations proved to be. This greed, this desire to operate free of the shackles of needed oversight, led to what happened in January. And coal mines, sadly, aren't the only place where America's workers are being left behind by their bosses.
I said Tuesday that someone is benefiting from the way things are. Those someones, however, aren't us. Nor are they the 12 Sago miners who died, in part, because their government found it more important to legislate morality than to legislate mine safety. The Bush administration, beholden to the religious right and Big Business, has hijacked our priorities. It's time we take them - and America - back.