No Panaceas

Friday, September 05, 2003
Hmmm: Okay, so yesterday we are told that the Park Service decided at the last minute to allow ABC/NFL to broadcast commercials on the Mall. Apparently there was a lot of hesitation within the Park Service since, after all, allowing commercials to be broadcast on the Mall is a blatant violation of federal regulations. But then suddenly the Park Service went along. I quoted part of this yesterday, but here is a fuller selection from yesterday's Post:

Vikki Keys, acting superintendent for the Park Service's Mall area, said she decided to allow the showing of commercials once she realized that it was an "event broadcast from the Mall to the Mall."

"Once I understood more about what would occur, I determined that it was in keeping with Park Service guidelines and policy," Keys said.

I still don't know what "Mall to the Mall" means. From the National Mall to the Pentagon City mall? From Mall to shining mall? Clearly she can't mean it was television filmed at the Mall for people at the Mall to watch. As far as I know there is not a football stadium at the Mall, at least not yet.

The more important part of the quote is, "Once I understood more about what would occur..." So I am watching this thing last night and imagine my surprise when President Bush came on doing a commercial for the NFL! You don't think...?

As for the event itself Tom Shales pretty much nailed it:

American bad taste is the most powerful bad taste in the world. That seems to be what was really being celebrated on the Mall last night at an excruciating 55-minute rock concert ostensibly convened to herald the new pro football season and televised live on the struggling ABC network.

Now on for another season of the only sports league in the world -- as far as I know -- that purposely enforces league-wide mediocrity. The day will come when every team will finish with 8-8 records and Paul Tagliabue will have his moment of nirvana.

Thursday, September 04, 2003
Manure by any other name still smells...: Well it turns out the NFL's Mall fest does not have commercials it has "sponsor recognition:"

Rules prohibiting commercial marketing on the Mall do not apply to this week's NFL extravaganza because the promotional aspects constitute "sponsor recognition" and not advertising, National Park Service officials said yesterday.

The decision also allows the National Football League to show tonight's season opener between the Redskins and the New York Jets, including commercials, on Jumbotron screens that will be set up between Third and 14th streets NW.

Check this out:

Vikki Keys, acting superintendent for the Park Service's Mall area, said she decided to allow the showing of commercials once she realized that it was an "event broadcast from the Mall to the Mall."

Well that really clears things up. Mall to the Mall?

Wouldn't it be refreshing if these bureaucrats skipped the Clintonian parsing and just said, "Hey, we just love football, so we decided to hell the with rules, we're having a party."

Anyway, I'm not quite katty enough to take pleasure in the fact that it's rained pretty much none stop all week.

Estrada bites the dust:

Miguel Estrada, President Bush's embattled nominee for a federal appeals court judgeship, has withdrawn his name from consideration, ending a bitter battle with Senate Democrats who blocked his nomination, administration officials said Thursday.

This was just a matter of time. I'm surprised Pryor hasn't pulled out, too. But what does this really indicate? Is Estrada just tired of the fight? Or have Republicans privately told Estrada that the so called "nuclear" option is a non-starter so that, therefore, his chances of confirmation are nill? I suspect it's the latter.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Panem et circenses: As you've probably heard, the NFL is starting its season with a multi-day corporate fest. It all leads up to a concert on Thursday just before the Redskins game -- though oddly or not the festival is on the Mall, rather than where the game is actually being played (somewhere in suburban Maryland). When I first heard about this I thought it sounded terribly vapid, and from the looks of the Mall today my first reaction was right.

Some now question whether such an event is improperly commercial for the Mall. I don't know. I tend to agree that this is way different than you normally see there. Sure there are commercial elements to many Mall events -- such as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the National Book Festival. I'm a fan of both those events -- especially the Book Festival. But there is a big difference between an event with commercial components and a commercial event, and the NFL festival is nothing but a commercial event. Sure, football is the true national pastime and in some ways the love of football connects many Americans in ways that geography, race, religion, and party cannot. But this event is not about football as a sport, it's mainly about the particular product that the NFL (and Pepsi and dozens of other companies) sells.

Whatever. In the grand scheme of things it's not a big deal.

Yet, there is another element to this that is a total disgrace. The Pentagon is tagging along with this as a way to "thank" our military. Thus uniformed military personnel and their families will get VIP treatment at the concert. That's all fine and good, but what is this really about? First, it's a television spectacle for the Bush administration, thus the need for uniforms. (Which are not required, but encouraged.)

Second, it's an inexpensive (read: free) way for the administration to "do something for the troops" while quietly axing veteran's benefits, and while leaving thousands in a dangerous, untenable situation in Iraq. (Hey, I lost my leg and can't get a job, but I got front-row seats for Britney Spears, so it was worth it!)

In other words, it's not bread and circuses. It's just a circus.