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Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - December 19, 2000, Altoona, Pennsylvania Page A8Tuesday, December 19, 2000 Altoona mirror opinion Edward W. Kruger Publisher Raymond M. Eckenrode Managing Editor David M. Mentzer Sr.    Don    Watson Operations Manager    Sales    Manager Daniel N. Step    John L. Eggers Circulation Manager    Accounting Manager Steven P. Carpenter Opinion Page Editor OTHER VIEWS THE ISSUE George W. Bush prepares to lead. Don’t sell Bush short as a leader Cox News Service AUSTIN, Texas — As George W. Bush enters his first full week as president-elect, he lacks neither advice nor outside assessment. The punditocracy spent last week discussing, analyzing and handicapping the future of his presidency and isn’t inclined to quit just yet. Members of Congress and every political consultant in a Washington producer’s Rolodex have been interviewed. Television pundits have spent hour after hour interviewing their favorite subjects — each other — on what kind of job Bush will do. The conventional wisdom is that he must govern from the center unless you listen to the countervailing conventional wisdom that he owes his soul to the far right wing of his party. How will Bush respond to the pressure? He’ll do do just fine. The caricature of the clueless rube drawn by the opposition and the national press would lead the unsuspecting to believe that he’s never been to town, as they say in West Texas. Well he’s been to town. Texas is no Washington, D.C., but despite its enduring dumb cowpuncher stereotypes, the Lone Star State is a complicated, cosmopolitan and diverse society with an increasingly sophisticated urban economy. The state constitution limits the governor’s power; nonetheless, but modern Texas requires much of its chief executive as well as the Legislature. Even though the Legislature meets in regular session every two years, demands of the job keep members in Austin more often with interim committee meetings on issues ranging from redistricting to appropriations. As Texas has grown in population and economic complexity, the governor has become the state’s No. I traveling salesman. Because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Bush has needed to focus on the state’s relationship with Mexico, and there he has done a superb job. Let the low expectations continue if critics feel they must hammer away at that theme. It will be OK with Bush. Throughout his political career, he’s capitalized on low expectations. He’s been to town after all. He’s no stranger to Washington and its complex and fractious ways. .LOVE IS ALU •$; ARCW, NO I NEER TO WASTE IT TOU CAN HAVE THE vTOI.WYWHT * YOU TAKE IT. WRE GONNA MAKE IT APTER ALL, YOU'RE GONNA * MAKE IT AFTER ALL YOUR VIEW Protest School of Americas Nov. 18-19 marked the lith year of peaceful vigil and civil disobedience at Fort Benning, Ga., to protest American funding of the School of the Americas. This school trains soldiers of Latin America in techniques of torture and counter insurgency to use against the poor people in their countries, as well as the missionaries, teachers, students and others who travel to Latin America to give aid to the poor and oppressed. Despite the Army’s attempt last spring to divert attention away from the issue by changing the name of the school and a narrow margin of approval in Congress to support die school for another year, about 13,000 people turned out to give voice to those who are unable to speak for themselves. I was among the 1,700 people arrested and served with a ban and bar order from Fort Benning. What was my crime? It is illegal to enter military property and express my opinion that rape, torture, disappearance and murder of civilians is against the moral code of God. Jesus taught us “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” and the commandments instruct us, “Thou shalt not kill.” The Army keeps saying the problems are in the distant past and that the school is “advancing democracy,” but again and again names of graduates surface amid charges listed above. While the people responsible for the Write a letter All letters must be original and include your full name, complete mailing address and daytime telephone number for verification purposes. The Mirror will contact the writers of letters selected for publication to verify authorship. Letters of 300 words or less are pre deaths and disappearances of countless numbers of women, children and men have never served one day in prison for their atrocities, 50 people have collectively served 30 years of prison time in acts of civil disobedience to bring this topic into public awareness. Please contact your members of the House and the Senate and tell them if you do not wish to have your tax dollars spent in this fashion. Elizabeth J. Enright, Bedford ferred. The Mirror reserves the right to edit or reject any letter. Submit your material by: E-mail: [email protected] Mail: Altoona Mirror Letters P.O. Box 2008 Altoona, PA 16603 Fax: (814) 946-7540 In person: 9 a m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday Let fur fly on domestic politics By Tom Tee pen Cox News Service There’s a lot of happy-talk prattle going around to the effect that whichever of these fellows becomes president, he must reach out to the other side and create an administration that will unify the country. Nuts to that. What this country really needs is a good spell of down and dirty, ear-bitin’, eye-gougin’ politics. Without that, we’re never going to settle anything and will have to keep muddling along in a constant quibble over small matters. Oh, sure, where our large national interests are at stake — in threats to national security, in matters of fundamental economic soundness — a working measure of political cooperation will be essential. For the rest, let the fur fly. We’re in this current mess in part because the presidential election avoided any sharp debate over key issues. Both campaigns were engineered by consultants and driven by focus-group drivel. Neither had any larger purpose than to be elected. Every utterance was first market-tested. By the end, given his unfortunate knack for verbal pratfalls, George W. Bush was as programmed as an electronic toy and Al Gore had become a political automaton. Did Bush have a big tax cut for everybody? Gore had tax cuts, too, smaller but targeted to the middle class. Would Gore see to it that seniors could afford their prescriptions through Medicare? Bush would look after the old folks’ medicine cabinets, too, by subsidizing insurance companies. Yet there are major issues untended in this country: How is federalism to work in an Internet age and a global era? How should the United States exercise its unique leadership in international relations? Unlike other developed nations, will we resign ourselves to another century of endemic domestic poverty amid plenty? Will we reform a skewed criminal justice system that is producing racial havoc? Do we mean it about environmentalism or will we just tug pretty pieties over wanton practices? Gore is holding his cards as close to the chest as sly W. C. Fields in that famous photograph, but Bush has been playing president-elect in public, so we have some tentative idea of what the great uniter may be up to. It is not, thank goodness, uniting. The Democrats being mentioned as possible Bush administration appointees are nearly all members of Congress and almost all of those are “blue dog” — that is, conservative, usually southern — Democrats whose districts would likely replace them with Republicans. The uniting the Bush camp has in mind, if it is serious about these names, is uniting around a more Republican Congress. Now, that’s real politics. The prospect is promising in the Senate, too, which with a Bush victory would be split 50-50. Majority Leader Trent Lott has rejected Democratic pitches for even-Steven committees and co-chairs, and the GOP caucus passed up two moderates for mid-level leadership roles in favor of hard-right warriors. And with the House likely to be led as much by its hit man whip, Tom DeLay, as by make-nice Speaker Dennis Hastert, there is little danger there of comity. Let the games begin. Sex at 8: The Partridges don’t live here anymore By JULIE SALAMON V. Y. Times News Service Dn a recent episode of “Boston Public,” a new prime time show about life in high school, Scott Huber, the assistant principal, goes on a blind date with a woman who calls herself a masseuse. Surprisingly, this happily sensual and attractive woman seems to be infatuated with the tightly wound Cuber and arranges a second date, at her apartment. She cooks him a meal. Dessert is a massage, which begins with a careful kneading of legs and thighs and then moves into even more sensitive territory. But what the grown-ups do on “Boston Ihlblic” is mild compared with what the kids do. In an earlier episode, a girl student is shown getting up from her knees after administering oral sex to a boy. Administering may seem like the wrong \fcrb, a bit formal, but as it turns out, this i$ a business arrangement. These classmates were running against one another ill a school election, and she was simply campaigning for his vote. That may well be an apt metaphor for politics as usual these days, but at 8 p.m.? At 7. central time? Sure, things have come ^Jong way since Ricky and Lucy slept in twin beds. “The Simpsons” and “Malcolm iii the Middle,” very popular with young I ewers and broadcast in the early pning, flirt with mild lewdness. But Jpston Public” is written as though tKwndaries shouldn’t exist at any hour. fHe show’s sexual candor is startling in a show aimed directly at teen-agers and which has drawn strong ratings with youngsters and adults. Surely outrage was imminent. No, said a nice young woman in the publicity department at Fox, which carries “Boston Public.” “We haven’t had an overwhelmingly negative or heated response to the subject matter,” she said. “It is kind of iffy matter, but I guess people are just responding to it in a better way.” “Iffy” was understandable. To clarify “better,” check out the show’s official Web site. You’ll find that about as many people were disturbed by the absence of authentic Boston accents on the show as by the presence of oral sex. A high school girl plaintively praised the show for opening the discussion. Referring to a psychology class where sex was the topic, she wrote: “Out of a class of 27 students, 3 said that they were able to talk to their parents about sex. I was not one of the 3. What is happening to the lines of communication between parents and their children?” Judging from the number of e mail postings, and their relative hostility quotient, most upsetting to the show’s viewers was the story line in which a teacher volunteers to sponsor a National Rifle Association chapter at school and then gives an anti gun lecture to the students who join the club. The barrage from angry gun lovers was clearly a more “iffy matter.” By itself, sex isn’t enough to guarantee success on TV. NBC’s “Titans” was just t canceled, not because it offered overt sexuality at 8 p.m. — which it did — but because audiences rejected the show’s retro soap opera story lines. Still, those who find themselves furtively taping “Boston Public” so they can watch after the children are asleep might feel nostalgia for “family viewing” time. Yes, there actually was such a thing, and not all that long ago. Family viewing was a notion promoted in the mid-1970s, before the evening news was R-rated, when “All in the Family” was considered a threat to children. After pressure from the Federal Communications Commission and Congress, the networks agreed to designate 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., the first two hours of prime time, for programs that were considered appropriate for all ages (though “appropriate” was never precisely defined). Two popular shows, “All in the Family” and “The Rookies,” were considered morally questionable enough for younger viewers that they were bumped from their 8 o’clock slots. Though a court eventually ruled that the FCC had improperly coerced the networks, relative caution continued to prevail with early evening programming for a few years. Shows for youngsters dominated until the early 1990s. Then NBC, positioning itself as the network for hip young adults, saw no competition before 9 p.m. The network infiltrated family viewing time with “Mad About You,” a sexy, sophisticated comedy, followed the next year with the coy frankness of “Friends.” Meanwhile, cable was expanding, Fox I and the WB emerged as full-fledged networks and the Internet began invading homes — with blithe democratic disregard for prudishness or modesty or editorial temperance of any kind. In 1994, Fox moved “Melrose Place” from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. Bed-hopping, alcoholism and murder became family fare. No wonder it was impossible to keep the sexy peccadilloes in the White House a secret. Television and the Internet had paved the way for oral sex to be mentioned on the evening news. Television has led and mirrored vast changes in social mores. But in many ways, nothing has changed. In America, prurience and priggishness have always danced in tandem. “Boston Public” simply carries on the tradition. Its creator, David E. Kelley, cleverly titillates and then moralizes. Almost every week a student is suspended or transferred to another school for some infraction (including the politically ambitious girl who tried trading sex for votes). The assistant principal doesn’t lie back and enjoy his massage; he’s scandalized by it. When Kelley has a student friskily toss a breast implant in the hallway — which whacks a teacher in the eye — he balances the naughtiness with a disapproving speech about the impropriety of breast implants for teen-agers. Even the budding romance between two teachers seems to burn with more angst than passion. The message seems to be: You can have sex at family viewing time. Just make sure it isn’t fun. David Grimes Humbug to Christmas newsletters As a journalist, I am professionally obligated to defend the First Amendment, support free speech, blah, blah, blah. This is unfortunate because there are so many forms of expression out there that should be muzzled, censored, outlawed, shut down or otherwise made to disappear from the face of the earth. Take the Christmas newsletter, for instance. Nothing can suck the will to live out of a human being faster than ripping open a fancy red envelope and finding a - laser-jet computer printout that begins: “Dear Friend, Relative and/or Occupant: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and now let me bring you up to date, in excruciating detail, on all the incredibly wonderful things that happened to the Griswold family this year!!!!” By the time you get to the part about 10-year-old Jennifer’s second-place finish in the district baton twirler’s competition (“She’s sure to finish first next year!!!!”), you feel like untangling a few strands of icicle lights, just to cheer yourself up. While I fear and loathe Christmas newsletters, I never considered them part of a conspiracy until somebody told me of an organization with the chilling name “The Secret Society of Happy People.” Founded by Pam Johnson, the Society encourages people to think happy thoughts, maintain a cheerful attitude and otherwise be a big, smiley pain in the neck to the rest of us who spend our lives worrying when the asteroid is going to hit. But I’m thinking: Hey, we survived Barney, we survived Mister Rogers; we can certainly survive The Secret Society of Happy People. That was before I learned of the Society’s hidden agenda: The promotion of Christmas newsletters. Yes, sullen reader, there is a driving force behind this annoying phenomenon, and it is one Pam Johnson. Johnson not only likes Christmas newsletters, she once wrote a letter to Ann Landers asking the columnist to reconsider her advice to readers that they not send Christmas newsletters. (I do not know if Ann suggested that people who send Christmas newsletters should seek counseling, but if she didn’t, she should have.) What will happen next, I don’t know. But I fear that even someone with the strength of character and good sense of Ann Landers will wilt in the face of an onslaught of relentlessly happy people bent on sending out a minimum of IOO copies each of their Christmas newsletters. It is clear to me, if to no one else, that the Secret Society of Happy People must be stopped at all costs. If we have to amend the Constitution to specifically exclude the Secret Society of Happy People from the protection of the First Amendment, then that is what we should do. Because Americans may be guaranteed the right to vote, the right to bear arms and the right to a speedy trial, but there is nothing in the Constitution that says we have to endure Christmas newsletters from people who bandy about exclamation points the way the rest of us do vowels. And while we’re at it, if someone wants to ban icicle lights, that would be fine, too. (Grimes is a columnist for the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla. The Herald-Tribune is a member of the New York Times Regional Newspapers,) Join Local Voices The Mirror is looking for more columnists for our Local Voices program. Participants are asked to write three to four columns over the course of a year. The columns should be about 500 words. Those interested in participating are asked to submit a sample column as well as possible ideas for two columns. The material can be mailed to Altoona Mirror Local Voices, P O Box 2008, Altoona, PA 16603, or sent via e-mail to opinion © For more information, contact Steve Carpenter, opinion paae editor, at 946-7537 K ;