Congress has agreed to extend the Patriot Act, but real patriots don't need any legislation to define them.
Starting today, all good Red, White and Blue partisans will be glued to their television screens, cheering Americans on to Olympic victories.
The Olympics always have been a big deal, but the way they are presented has certainly changed from the days when all info was funneled through a single broadcast network. Yes, I'm old enough to remember television reception via antennas and Olympic "up close and personal" features of European athletes who all seemed to be building their own rustic homes in some untouched forest.
Those days are long gone. Today, with the combination of Internet coverage and the collective channels of NBC-Universal, you can have all Olympics, all the time.
According to a Harris Interactive Poll, at least 65 percent of my adult countrymen and women will watch at least some of the television coverage. True, we'll be at the mercy of programmers who are slaves to demographics.
That means a lot of the coverage will be snippets and so-called highlights of events that don't appeal to a particular advertiser-desired group. But at least we'll get a bit of variety.
While NBC will hang onto the lucrative ice skating and alpine ski events (about half of the adults that Harris polled said they plan to watch both skating and skiing competitions), USA, MSNBC and CNBC will share coverage of, among other things, curling, hockey, snowboarding and the biathlon.
Earlier this week, the New York Times printed a full page TV grid of the various Olympic offerings. I've been carrying it with me from room to room so that I'll be able to flip on any TV whenever an Olympics-viewing need arises.
At least for the next couple of weeks, we'll get the full value out of our cable system. Don't get me wrong; I depend year-round on my cable TV (despite efforts of a friend who works for DirecTV and keeps trying to convert me).
I'm not embarrassed to admit that I watch a lot of television. I'm not one of those who claims to only watch PBS; I do watch it, and it does have some fine stuff. But there's also a lot of other first-rate programming, educational in its own way, on the hundreds of other channels we get and watch.
And then there's Video on Demand. When my satellite-hawking friend can offer me that, I might give his product another look. Whoever came up with VoD programming should, in my opinion, rule the world.
I admit that our Time-Warner bill runs neck-and-neck each month with Austin Electric to see which can collect the bigger check from us. And it does occasionally irk me that the bill's taxes and fees section alone is enough to pay for another tier of premium programming. (Although according to this Web site, if I switch to satellite, I could be paying even more TV taxes. Got to talk to my pro-dish friend about that, too.)
Point is, I love my TV and the cable variety and it's an expense to which I'm resigned. I justify my addiction to TV in general and cable offerings in particular by noting that it is our prime form of entertainment. And we plan on being entertained to the max during the Olympics, starting at 5 p.m. Central today when USA kicks off the couch potato fest with "Olympic Ice."
USA! USA! USA!
Other extenders: OK, we're all safe now that Congress has OK'ed the Patriot Act's incursions into our personal lives for a few more months.
Now, Capitol Hill, what about protecting our bank accounts by extending some of those tax measures that affect millions of us?
As I've mentioned before (and before and, yes, before), lawmakers are taking their sweet time deciding whether to continue some popular tax breaks that officially ended on Dec. 31, 2005. They include the tuition and fees deduction, the educators' expenses write-off and the itemized deduction for state sales taxes.
There's also that sticky little matter of the alternative minimum tax, which, unless changed, could mean 22 million middle-income taxpayers will owe the IRS much more when they file their 2006 returns next year.
The House and Senate have passed different bills addressing these issues and now must hammer out a unified measure to send to the president. House conferees have been selected; Senate negotiators are expected to be named next week.
Say what? Media outlets covering the Olympics must choose between Turin or Torino in their reports. In most instances, the Anglicized town name is winning, although I notice that in its official Olympics logo, NBC opted for the vowel-heavy version.
The preference for Turin dismays John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle, who says, "'Torino' just sounds better than 'Turin.' The reason for that is simple: Torino is Italian and Turin is some leaden, Anglo-Germanic equivalent."
He acknowledges that English reports generally refer to Rome, not Roma; Venice, not Venezia; and Florence, not Firenze. And the religious icon isn't called the Shroud of Torino.
Tradition, English ethnocentrism and AP Stylebook aside, I'm with John here. So every time an American wins a medal, I'll raise my glass of Chianti and give a big, "Vive Torino!"