Friday, January 27, 2006

What We Watch

What we watch on television (and also movies, video games,etc.) has been on my mind recently. I think everyone's heard of the controversy surrounding NBC's "Book of Daniel" and it's cancellation. No, I didn't watch it - NUMB3RS on CBS which aired opposite it is one of my very favorite current shows and I just couldn't miss THAT!

But it did lead me to think about what I watch, and about what is on television these days. The other week I had on "Law and Order - Criminal Intent" - the episode with guest star Michael York. This episode had a graphic scene where Michael York's character dispassionately had one of his proteges (who seems to finally revel in it) murder someone. Then, in a recent episode of "CSI: Miami" the story centered around a serial killer who of course, did his deeds with relish. The show also had some pretty bloody scenes.

Those scenes really got me upset. I didn't really change channels as there was nothing much better on at the time (yes, I know, I really should get cable), but those shows really left me with a bad feeling. Of course whodunits have been around forever - but the kind of violence now seems different. The villains are too dispassionate, too many characters are really amoral, few ever show any type of real remorse. I really have to believe that constant exposure to this type of entertainment has to affect people. (The American Psychological Association is concerned about the effect of violent images and lyrics on youth, and has called for a reduction of violence in video games.)

I wonder why we take shows like those I've mentioned above in stride - but things like "Book of Daniel" seem to get right-wing groups upset. I wonder why they aren't protesting shows that are excessively violent and graphic. I wonder why writers don't come up with something better; I know they can! I wonder why we don't demand better programming.

Maybe we should all think more deeply about what's playing - and demand and look for better choices.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Domestic Spying Outrage

I am thoroughly outraged by the recent uncovering of domestic spying by the NSA. I am even more outraged by Bush's defense of this as necessary for the war on terrorism. I don't buy that for a second. I feel it is disgraceful for him to always use the "war on terrorism" as some smoke screen for trampling on civil liberties and privacy.

First, I don't believe that we should ever compromise civil liberties for some claim of helping national security. I am stunned that this administration continually tries to circumvent our Constitution and the separation of powers. It is especially troubling in this case as there is no reason for them not to follow the law. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act even allows for immediate emergency taps for 72 hours before getting court approval. Surely this is not so burdensome that the NSA can't comply. Second, there appears to be some doubt that the program is even effective. A New York Times article says that the NSA provided the FBI with literally thousands of names and contacts that led to innocent citizens or dead ends.

We need to let Congress know that it needs to provide more oversight of this agency. We need Congress to insist that the President and the Executive Branch adhere to the laws of the land. NO ONE should be above or outside the Constitution and U. S. law. We need Congress to hold real, meaningful hearings on the subject. Better yet, Congress should appoint a special commission to look into the matter. We can also hope for a positive outcome of lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Let your Congressional representative and your Senators know you are outraged about this and want it to end. Get your family, friends, colleagues and neighbors to do the same. We must all stand together and let Washington and the entire nation know that this program is unacceptable.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Madame President

Have you heard of the two women who will indeed be "Madame President" in their respective countries? Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf takes office tomorrow as President of Liberia. This article tells of some of the challenges she will face. Michelle Bachelet has just been elected as the next President of Chile. She will become her nation's first female president and the first popularly-elected female president in South America.

So why has the U. S. not yet elected a female President? Why have other nations had female heads of state, but we have not? I often wonder about this as I feel women on the whole are better off here and have more opportunities than in many other places. For that matter, why have we not yet elected a President from one of our more diverse ethnic or religious backgrounds? (Oh, I keep forgetting, it was just in my lifetime that we finally elected a CATHOLIC President!)

I guess that since we're SUPPOSED to know better now, I keep hoping that the pace of progress should speed up a bit. I really think it would do us good to elect a leader of a more diverse background. It might shake things up a bit (Heaven knows our current political system needs that!), might open things up, might give more of us a stake in the political system.

Meanwhile, let's demand better of our leaders, let's demand more responsiveness to the problems of everyday Americans. Let's not be satisfied with business as usual - the poor response to hurricane Katrina, the mess that is the Medicare drug program, wiretapping without court warrants, a President who says critics of the war are less than patriotic.