The FCC has changed its mind and ruled that when Bono said “fucking brilliant” on national TV at the Grammys he was using “the most vulgar, graphic and explicit descriptions of sexual activity in the English language”. They said it was both indecent and profane. Interestingly, reports Fox news story above, “the decision also marked the first time that the FCC cited a four-letter word as profane; the commission previously equated profanity with language challenging God’s divinity.”

Meanwhile, This American Life ran an interesting story as part of their “Propriety” show which discussed these issues. One of their guests has done study after study to try to determine if profanity harms children. He has never found any evidence that profanity in any way harms children. Furthermore, he found that children as young as 2 years old already know most swear words. Children old enough to comprehend Bono on the Grammys have heard and probable said the word “fucking” many, many times.

Well, what about the idea that if children hear Bono swear that they’ll think it is OK to swear. This researcher said that children learn these words from their parents. Who has more influence over a child, his or her parents or Bono? I’m very scared if the answer is Bono. It’s not the Bonos of the world teaching our kids to swear.

So if kids already know the words and perhaps even use the words, and if most adults know the words and perhaps even use the words, why are we so concerned about this stuff? I think our media can be mostly children-friendly but must it be entirely children-friendly? Can the adults in this world have media available to them that is not necessarily rated G?

First of all, I really believe that if your kids hear profanity or perhaps even use it themselves, it is not a big deal. Good parenting can make sure kids know what is appropriate and what is not. I will make sure my kids know that using language like that is for adults and is rarely appropriate. (And I’m a Dad now so I can say that). At the same time, I’m not going to freak out if me or my friends or some guy on TV swears in front of my kid. It’s not a big deal.

The bigger picture is this pseudo-moral bullshit that is going on. There are a bunch of church ladies (men included) who think they need to be the morality police. They don’t like gay people, they don’t like premarital sex, they don’t like swearing, etc. These people (mostly on the Christian Right) are using our government to evangelize their religious values. For good reason people in Europe and other places think we are a bunch of prudes.

Fucking relax, people. Republicans love to bitch that liberals want to legislate their lives. Here is their chance to put their money where their mouths are and drop these “morality police” issues. The world is not nor can it ever be G-rated. Don’t cheat your children by tricking them into thinking the world is G-rated. If you are a good parent Bono saying “fucking brilliant” is not a threat.


Save the Hubble

I attended a speech by NASA Director Sean O’Keefe at the Denver meeting of the American Astronomical Society. He lightly touched on many encouraging topics in regards to NASA’s role in empowering space-based astronomy. But most of his talk was spent defending his decision to cancel the upcoming servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). In a nutshell, this dooms Hubble to die an early death.

His argument is basically that a mission to Hubble is sufficiently different from missions to the International Space Station (ISS) that it would take too long and too much money to prepare for and execute. He has said that NASA will adopt every recommendation by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB). This means that there must be repair and rescue contingency plans, including having a second space shuttle on the ground ready to launch.

Besides this intellectual argument he also very much played an emotional card. When NASA fucks up people die and everyone pays attention. I can only imagine how difficult it is to look in the eye of a kid whose mom or dad isn’t coming home from work ever again. Even so, O’Keefe maintains that he is not risk adverse. He says being diligent is different from being risk adverse.

These are not irrational arguments. There is one primary issue that O’Keefe’s position necessitates: Is HST worth it? This is the whole issue. Is HST worth the chance that people die working on the project. Is it worth the dollars, time and effort necessary to do the work. The astronauts have said they’ll do the mission. Astronauts know better than anybody the risks involved in manned spaceflight. The HST is the single most revolutionary scientific instrument in history. Furthermore, the HST has capabilities that no other planned space telescope has for the next 20 years (and probably much longer than that). Almost every astronomer in the world agrees that the HST should be a priority for the foreseeable future.

A secondary question is: should NASA implement every recommendation of the CAIB? I feel the answer is no. It should not be required that every possible safety is in place for every single mission. We should weigh the risks on a case by case basis. There will always be risk but we can’t become paralyzed by it.

The cancelled HST servicing mission is already planned and ready to go. If they outfit it with the most important subset of the CAIB’s recommendation, it will be safer than any previous shuttle flight. The Hubble is worth it. It has fantastically successful capabilities. Save the Hubble.

Save the Hubble