Friday, January 25, 2013

A Nomination for 'National Human'

The 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade—the court case that legalized abortion—brought back to my mind a decision I had made while working on an article for the Cape May County Herald back in the 1990s. Looking back, I think I made the wrong choice.

I had occasion to interview a zoologist who headed up a program that looked after injured turtle eggs. Specifically, it was those eggs that were damaged by passing automobiles that had hit female turtles as they crossed a south Jersey highway to reach their nesting spot.

He described how the interns that participated in this program were literally—literally—in tears as they picked up the injured eggs and brought them back to the facility where they were nursed back to health so they could hatch.

At the time, I was tempted to ask what I thought was a very obvious question, but my journalist’s objectivity prohibited me from taking the interview in a direction that was never intended. In hindsight, I now wish I had taken that path, because it would have made for a far more interesting and illuminating article, albeit one that would have no doubt annoyed my editor.

The question I wanted to ask the zoologist was, “These interns seem very respectful of life in general, would you say they are the type of young adults that one would find tearfully protesting in front of abortion clinics?”

My expected reaction would have been a terse and emphatic, “Oh no!” followed by the obligatory, “They would likely see that as a woman’s decision.”

But it never got to that juncture. I bit my tongue and carried on the interview as though I actually cared about foraged turtle eggs and the valiant attempt to save unborn reptiles.

I recently was shown a poster that stated the fine for destroying an eagle’s egg is a quarter of a million dollars or up to two years in prison. Seems fair. After all, it’s our national bird, whereas the country really doesn’t have a national human.

At any rate, that’s where this culture stands, or so it appears—careful with those bird and reptile eggs; we could be losing hundreds, even thousands every year. The eggs inside a human? In the US alone, there are more than 3,000 abortions a day.

But here’s a curious fact: In most states, if a pregnant woman is murdered, the assailant is charged with two counts of homicide: one for the killing of the mother, and one for killing of the unborn child. Amazing how the crime turns—not on the life of the innocent victim—but on the identity of the person deciding that a life should end. Even an innocent one.

And maybe this mayhem could come to an end if Congress would just designate someone as the National Human. I have an early nominee: Norma McCorvey. She’s the “Roe” in Roe vs. Wade.

For everyone’s information, today, Norma McCorvey is pro-life. Oh, and she’s also converted to Catholicism.

Friday, January 11, 2013

I'd Like To See the FBI Involved

I like to watch the British-produced police dramas on TV—shows you may not have heard of, Like Wire in the Blood, Taggart, A Touch of Frost, The Murdoch Mysteries… The plots are more interesting and intricate (and a lot less politically-correct) than the standard American-made police shows.

The foreign shows are hard to find sometimes; I gain access to most via Netflix. But in the end, they are all still mostly fiction with a little fact thrown in here and there.

When the old Bob Newhart Show was in Prime Time back in the 1970s, I asked my cousin, who is an Oxford-trained psychologist, just how accurately the show portrayed the life of a psychologist, since Newhart played a Chicago-based therapist in the popular sit-com.

“It’s not at all accurate,” he exclaimed in mock horror. “The guy never heals anyone!” So he then asked me if any police shows met with my approval, since I had been a cop for about 10 years at the time.

I had to think about that for a while. How police are portrayed in TV, movies, and books has always been a sore-spot with me. Most are fantasies in every sense of the word. After a short pause, I told him that the sit-com Barney Miller was the show that most closely resembled how cops interact with both colleagues and citizens—and of course, even that was almost pure make-believe.

Such is the makeup of the entertainment industry. Never forget that they deal in fiction; that is, the material they present is not true. I’ve touched on this subject before, but I feel we need to be reminded of this every once in a while—perhaps on a regular basis.

That came home to me while I watched a police-themed drama on TV recently wherein the standard intra-department animosity was depicted, with the FBI exercising authority over a municipal police department with their usual arrogance, and the local police cowering with their usual petulance.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We worked closely with the guys in the Philadelphia FBI office. We even went drinking with them a time or two after an assignment had been completed. They were cops just like us, only with a bigger budget. My men especially liked taking rides with them in their helicopter.

As far as jurisdictional squabbles were concerned, well, we were only too glad to turn over a case that appeared to be more a federal issue than one handled at the municipal level. Hey, it meant less work for us! But in every fictional murder mystery or police procedural, law enforcement departments are represented as self-centered, self-serving, self-interested, and in no way cooperative with their like-minded colleagues.

And by the way, the FBI has no “authority” over any municipal police department, unless the crime is a violation of a federal statute. And of course, they then take over, and the locals are usually more than happy to relinquish that part of their caseload.  The FBI is not in the chain-of-command above any city’s police department. They handle federal violations, while locals handle municipal and state crimes.

But this is definitely not the way the entertainment industry paints the law-enforcement picture. Pretty soon they may even be telling their viewers that it’s illegal to log on to

Now that would be a crime the FBI should investigate!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Journalist Criticizes a Journalist

In November, child actor Angus Jones—one of the stars of the hit sitcom Two and a Half men—publicly criticized the show that has made him a multi-millionaire. In effect, he condemned the vulgar tone of the program.

Anyone who has seen this program knows that the kid is only confirming what they already have seen and heard themselves. The plots are about sex, the characters are sex-driven, and the dialogue is not so much sexual innuendo as it is crude and openly sexual remarks that one could hear in any junior high school yard. Yes, 13-year-olds laugh like hell at this stuff.

But the success of this long-running sitcom is testament to the depths to which our culture now stoops when looking for 22 minutes-worth of mindless entertainment. I confess that I watched this program the first two years of its existence, but soon grew tired of the ever-increasing focus on the bedroom and the bathroom—the two rooms about which Two and a Half Men seems to be concerned.

In a December 1, 2012 column in the Philadelphia Inquirer, their television columnist found fault with Angus Jones, saying that he sabotaged his career by this “bizarre” rambling of his. Of course the columnist also noted that the 19-year old is “newly evangelized.”

Well, well…I think we’re finally getting to the meat of the criticism. How critical would the television critic have been if Jones say, spoke out against the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to bear arms, or passed negative judgment on the pro-life movement, or defended atheism as sober way of life? Personally, I think Jones would have been painted as a hero for speaking his young mind.

But the moment you announce that Christianity is the impetus behind your stand, you’ve committed one of the news media’s seven deadly sins: Thou shalt not try to profess your belief in God—at least not if you make your living in the entertainment industry. Morals be damned.

The columnist even went so far as to say that if the young actor was truly appalled at the bawdy nature of the show, shouldn’t he give away his hefty salary to the more needy, since this would be the truly Christian thing to do?

Just as the columnist gives his salary to the needy, I suppose.

I see the incident as much more straight forward. Jones has simply grown up during the show’s tenure. He started as a 10-year-old, and is now 19. So why shouldn’t he be a bit more selective, more learned, more mature?

Maybe the lewd remarks he laughed at when he was 10, now seem juvenile and unworthy of an adult audience as he enters his 20th year of life. Yeah; I think the kid is growing up. And as a grown up, I think he can do what he wants with his salary.

He can even donate some of it to the training of journalists. Even if it’s just one course. I would vote for Objectivity 101—a course sadly lacking in many schools of journalism.