Tuesday, November 28, 2006

ABC The View presents major story on adoption and foster care

On Tuesday Nov 28 2006 ABC "The View" (11 AM EST) presented an interesting show on the shortage of adoptive and future foster parents. One gay male couple was presented, one female couple was shown, as well as one conventional heterosexual couple.

The website for the show is this.

Rosie O'Donnell is one of the co-hosts, and she drew attention to the issue of gay parents when she came out as a gay parent. Stories from The Advocate, MacLauin Kidzworld. Rosie tried to help a couple of gay foster parents in Florida, which will not allow gay parents to adopt children.

There are about a half million children in foster care, and the "moral case" for interesting more potential parents in adoption is becoming more visible in the media. In many states, single people are welcome to adopt. (In Minneapolis there were multiple ads at bus stops encouraging singles to consider both adoption and foster care.) At the same time, allowing gays to adopt undermines the "birthright" of a mother and a father for any child. Is this realistic? Would public policy incentives encourage more heterosexually married people to adopt, or will unmarried people always be needed? This is becoming a complex moral question.

Rosie mentioned the "celebrity feud" between Kelly Ripa and Clay Aiken on an earlier episode of "The View" this month. I did watch a tape of "Live with Regis and Kelly" of that episode and didn't see much happen, but she did yet at him when they were horsing around at the end.

TLC: "World's Tallest People"

The Learning Channel featured a one hour documentary, "World's Tallest People," on Nov. 20. About 1% of adult men are over 6 ft 3 in (75 in), and the average male height is 5 ft 10 in (70 in). Most very tall men (and women) are so because of simple genetics and probability. But one in 750 men has the XXY chromosome anomaly, and some of these are very tall. One in 5000 or so has Marfan's Syndrome, which can lead to rupturing of the aorta. President Abraham Lincoln may have had Marfan's.

People are slowly getting taller in western countries. It seems less unusual today for some teenager boys to reach the height of 6 feet or so by age 13 or 14.

There is anecdotal talk that gay men may be slightly taller than average, and a look across a gay disco floor would seem to bear out that impression. Could there be any connection to biological or genetic theories?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

PBS: Frontline: Living Old

On Tuesday Nov 21, 2006 PBS Frontline broadcast "Living Old" (dir. Navosky and O'Conner). The show emphasized the difficult decisions faced by families as medical technology enables people to be kept alive longer but sometimes with great dependence on others. This has not only financial but social and moral consequences. The Living Will was discussed, but one 94-year-old woman still working as a financial planner refuses to sign one for her children, saying its all right to "be a problem -- where there is life, there is hope."

The show mentions the census fact that people over age 85 comprise the largest growing segment of the population.

The show did not mention filial responsibility laws or discuss the financial issues like Medicaid and Long Term Care Insurance in detail, as does a recent U.S. News & World Report Issue (Nov 27).

Related blog entry, on the US News magazine story, is here.

That same day ABC Nightline presented actor Stephen Baldwin who has become a born-again Christian evangelist using extreme sports like skateboarding as part of his ministry.

House, M.D.

This series "House, M.D." with Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House, has been well touted by Fox (since 2004) as a counterweight to ER and maybe even Law & Order. Ironically, it is produced by NBC Universal, though aired on Fox.

A typical episode was aired on Nov 21 2006 (Tuesday) in which an eighteen year old man has a heart attack, which is traced to brain disease and inherited immune disorder that can be cure by bone marrow transplant from a younger sibling.. The young man is himself orphaned, and has been involuntarily dealt the responsibility of raising younger siblings. In these individualistic times, it is interesting to note that numerous times movies and network or cable series have dealt with the themes of involuntary family responsibility, often for siblings or other relatives. Other examples have included TheWB's Summerland, and the movie "Raising Helen."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Area 51: Fact or Fiction

TLC presented the 1 hour documentary Area 51: Fact or Fiction, on Nov. 16, 2006. In 2000, I actually drove a rental car from Las Vegas the 200 miles around the horn to Rachel, Nevada and the Little Alien Inn. The documentary traces the efforts of a local to gain access to Area 51, about 30 miles of desert away from the Inn. He traveled to Denver to get satellite maps of the area, and found that the government and FBI got a search warrant to his mobile home. He says he didn't do anything illegal, and that he his being bullied or chilled off. The documentary showed various sensors on the land, and some UFO-like objects which could be top secret military aircraft.

I remember that trip. On a 1997 trip to Vegas, I had an ignition key break (that can really happen!) when another rental car was parked at Hoover Dam, and had to have the rental company come and rescue me.

Day Break

ABC has started a new series "Day Break" with a two-hour "movie" Wed Nov 15, 2006. The gimmick this time is that the protagonist Detective Brett Hopper (Taye Biggs) wakes up and lives the same day repeatedly, trying unravel a mystery of his being framed for the murder of a DA. The film has a bus crashing into buildings early on, echoing a tragic wreck in Washington DC in the 1990s when a woman sitting in a barber shop lost both legs. The film goes off into the space of shady government interrogation techniques, where he is masked. How often has someone wanted to relive a day and do just one thing differently. Not to be confused with the 1996 film "Daylight" with Sylvester Stallone, reviewed here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

ABC Nightline on Panama

On Monday Nov 13, 2006 ABC "Nightline" had an interest spot on American retirees moving to Panama City, in Panama (not Florida), which now is back under control of Panama the country since the US relinquished control of the Canal Zone in 1999. (Here is a typical story on the sovereignty issue.) The link for the ABC news story is here.

The Panama Canal was a contentious issue during Ronald Reagan's first presidential campaign back in 1980.

The city appears to be booming with multiple high rise condos (one as high as 100 stories) going up, and housing prices seem to be much less than in the US, and there is no exchange rate. One family was living comfortably in a large house with staff for $1200 a month. Health care up to US standards is available, with a private hospital room costing $150 a day, compared to $900 a day for a semi-private room in Orlando, FL, according to one retiree.

Retirees have felt pressured to move there (or to low cost areas) with their pensions less certain, and with social security age increasing.

The report did not state how well developed entertainment, and media infrastructure (Internet) is developed.

Judge Roberts, from the Supreme Court, was also interviewed on the broadcast.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

ABC 20-20 "Working Moms" Nov. 10

ABC "20-20" had a major segment on working mothers. Of course, mothers have been common in the workplace for decades, and equal employment has been a legal expectation since at least the 1970s. When I worked for Univac 1973-1974, it was at the time one of the most progressive companies with executive opportunities for women.

There is growing controversy about the accomodations expected by employers and, at least indirectly, from employees who do not have children. The United States is the only major western country that does not mandate paid maternity leave (the FMLA of 1993 would mandate unpaid leave). In practice, mothers often use vacation time and most companies have maternity leave policies, sometimes covered by short term disability mechanisms. Some more progressive companies do voluntarily offer paid maternity leave to long term employees. The "voluntarily" is important in a libertarian perspective.

With Democrats in control of Congress, this issue will likely be debated. And it is a debate that we need. In a population with an increasing aging population and eldercare and retirement issues, a lower birthrate among income earning people is an issue.

Should people who do not choose to have children be expected to make personal sacrifices to help those who do? Radio talk show host Tom Lycos is quoted on the show as asking that question bluntly. This is a debate that we need, and there will be more about it soon.

Elizabeth Vargas: Can Working Moms Have it All?

Lee Hoffman and Natalie D. Jacquez" "The Great Balancing Act"

The Washington Post has a column Nov 20 by Leslie Morgan Steiner, "On Balance," in which she asks "Are Parents Better Employees?" The link is here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

ABc 20-20: Privileged in Amerca: Who's Shutting You Out?

On Friday, Nov. 3, 2006 ABC 20-20 had a provocative two hour journalistic "movie" with John Stossel, much of it broadcast from the Phipps family Westbury Estate on Long Island, about the culture of privilege in America. Many issues were covered. These include nepotism, privileged treatment of schol athletes, racism (which can now go both ways), fame, and lookism, and particularly in the criminal justice system.

The racism component presented a man who looked completely Caucasian but who had one black parent, and who pass as "white" when his brother could not.

The lookism component showed nightclubs and bars denying admission to people based on "looks" (or the "halo effect"). That practice was shown in the movie 54 (1998), when the character played by Ryan Philippe waltzes in, past the bouncer, to Studio 54, shirtless with smooth chest and all. Even though I am 63, I have not run into this with gay disco clubs at all, although once a bouncer would not let me in to a small club in Minneapolis when he claimed that I was stumbling when I had not had any alcohol. Generally public accomodations in most cities may not legally discriminate this way, but it seems that the practice continues. I once berated a friend for suddenly gaining weight when I saw him at Pride, and he emailed me back that he was not pleased with my verbal comment, or with the "lookism" that infects the male gay community. "You should be more mature..."

What's disturbing is the "morality" of all of this. Family values seem, in the minds of many people, to justify privilege and nepotism, which is one reason that the nuclear family has lost moral credibility as a socializing institution. What seems to matter in a free society is how well each person can "play by the rules" of fairness, whatever they are.

There was a segment toward the end on fame and celebrity, which sometimes has an "expiration date." Indeed, the legal concept of "right of publicity" originally applied mostly to celebrities (and was a common law perk of earned "fame"). I can recall in 2002 getting into discussions with other callers in a phone bank about our society's idea of "meritocracy" and about "who is better" and whether or not this is really earned or deserved. There was a certain sentiment that often it is not, and there was a certain indignation against "rich people." Of course, remember that anger helped undergird Communism, in its most extreme forms like the Maoist Cultural Revolution of the 1960s; today China has a bizarre mixture of capitalism and a pretense of communism and "forced fairness" (?!?)

(Photo: a well known apartment building near Independence Hall in Philadelphia.)