Tag Archive | "Nancy Grace"

Dancing with the Stars

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America seems to be following in the footsteps of the Roman Empire.  Witness the state of our government and our lifestyles, including our forms of entertainment.  In the ancient Roman Colosseum, people paid to gleefully watch gladiators and lions impale and devour hapless Christians.  In modern times, reality TV has become the new Colosseum and the American viewing public has become modern-day Romans. The reality shows clogging the airwaves revolve around cutthroat business competitions, young nitwits vacationing at the shore, and the performing arts.  Into the latter category falls a popular show, “Dancing with the Stars.”

In this competition, a celebrity clueless about dancing is paired with a professional dancer.  The pairs always consist of a man and a woman (this year’s contestant, Chaz Bono, notwithstanding).  The professional dancer has the grueling task of teaching the partner with two left feet how to cut a rug.  Three judges, themselves professional dancers, weigh in on the performances, awarding points on a scale of 0 to 10.  The judges’ votes are totaled (i.e., a dancing pair may receive a total score of 30).  Reality, however, enters the fore when the at-home audience casts votes each week to keep their favorites jitterbugging.  The selection of the winning team is a process of elimination.

When the show first aired, contestants had to audition.  But in the years that followed, contestants of notoriety were selected to enhance the show’s entertainment value.  Some of the notables that have waltzed, fox-trotted, and samba’d their way across the stage are:

      ·    Hines Ward, an NFL (National Football League) player

      ·    Emmitt Smith, an NFL player

      ·    Marie Osmond, singer and sister to Donny Osmond

      ·    Kirstie Alley, actress

      ·    Tom DeLay, a former U.S. House leader

      ·    J. R. Martinez, war hero and actor

      ·    Mario Lopez, a former contestant on American Idol who scandalized the show by breaking its inane rule of signing with a non-Idol label after he’d been booted from that show

In truth, “Dancing with the Stars” is not really a contest.  What it is, in reality, is a vehicle for ratings and the almighty advertising dollars.   It is also a blood sport.  People tune in to see the amateurs trip over their own two feet, trip over their partners’ feet, injure themselves, break down emotionally, force their bodies through moves God never intended them to make, and cram themselves into costumes that, by and large, don’t leave much to the imagination (this goes for the men’s costumes as well as the women’s).  It doesn’t matter who gets impaled or devoured on this show; America loves its blood sports.

For example, the performances of Kirstie Alley and her partner Maksam Chmerkoskiy were, as the show launched, exercises in futility.  Kirstie had become nearly as famous for her “more to love” body as she had for her role on Cheers.  It was Maksam’s burden, literally, to haul Kirstie around the dance floor.  But, thanks to his hearty ethnic background and titanium jockstraps, Maksam survived what would have given lesser men a double hernia.  Rumors had it that when the show ended, he was nominated for both the Arnold Schwarzenegger Superman Award and the Jack La Laine Man of the Year Award.  Yes, Kirstie dropped a lot of weight as a result of her stint on the show, but it was Maksam who did much of the work.

Marie Osmond added a slice of Victoriana to the show when she fainted during her samba with Jonathan Roberta.  There wasn’t even a couch on stage on which she could have her vapors.  Although the audience’s initial reaction was laughter, the dauntless Marie managed to compose herself after a station break to receive her score from the judges.  Some said the fainting spell was a sympathy ploy to gain higher marks, but since she was awarded 21 out of a possible 30, I don’t think there was too much sympathy being handed out.   Adding insult to injury, some of Marie’s detractors complained that her costume looked like a Disney princess ballet recital costume for a 5-year- old, a la Cupcake.

Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives Tom DeLay didn’t let allegations of money laundering keep him from strutting his stuff.  Fellow House members were astonished by his poise and dexterity as he danced to those old favorites, The Tennessee Waltz and The Eyes of Texas.  But nothing beat his lively dance that included a tush-quiver that brought smiles to a select portion of our society.

One season, Emmitt Smith vied with Mario Lopez for the crown.  Although Mario’s tango brought the judges to the edge of their seats and drew thunderous applause from the audience, it was Emmitt who won.  But don’t feel too badly for Mario.  If you can’t win one reality show, and you can’t win another, fate may yet be kind to you: Mario now hosts his own show.

Contestant J. R. Martinez gave inspiration to us all.  Demonstrating fortitude and determination, this wounded veteran rose from injuries that had consumed 40% of his skin, including one of his ears. He credits the long running and now departing soap opera, All My Children, for his full recovery; compassionately, the soap had offered Martinez an acting position.  Without that notoriety, he felt that would have never been selected to try out for the dance contest.

Among the newcomers to the 2011 season is Nancy Grace of Casey Anthony fame.  Maybe Nancy will be asked to dance to Judgment at Nuremberg or another tune that will reflect her position of former prosecuting attorney and current TV show host.

My only questions about Dancing with the Stars are, “Who are the real stars?  Are they the celebrities that begin with zero talent, or are they the long-suffering professionals constrained to whip them into shape? And why don’t the viewers get to select the contestants?”

If I were granted the opportunity to make the selections, I would like to see people of interest vie for the title, people like President Obama or Mrs. Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or even Moammar.  If we make the show accessible to audiences globally, this would be a great way to duke out … I mean, dance out … our international problems.  What say ye?

Criminal Justice or Travesty?

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The law of the land that regulates American society is often expressed rhetorically.  Articulated in more fundamental terms, our legal system encompasses:

     1.     International law

     2.     Constitutional and Administrative law

     3.     Criminal law

     4.     Contract law

     5.     Tort law

     6.     Property law

     7.     Equity and Trusts

Obviously, the practice of law is complex, requiring professionals with expertise in these respective avenues of law.  I suppose that is the reason that this nation has so many attorneys.  For the purposes of this article, we’ll confine ourselves to Criminal law: an area impacted of late by many changes and one that has fallen prey to public opinion.

The once honored tenets of “innocent until proven guilty” and “a jury of one’s peers” have been adulterated by the court of public opinion.  The news media and programs like The Nancy Grace Show don’t simply report case histories; they invite audience participation.  This approach has driven a wedge into our  jury selection system.

When jurors are selected, they are charged with one simple, monumental task: evaluating the facts of the case to which they are assigned, to arrive at a decision of innocence or guilt for the defendant.   But finding impartial jurors nowadays is like hunting for that needle in the haystack.  How can anyone be impartial if the cases are being “tried” relentlessly on national television?  One would have to live in a bubble to avoid all the media hype!

Like a swarm of mosquitoes with a juicy target, the media centers on high notoriety cases such as those involving O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony.  The more controversial the case, the greater the audience and the higher the media ratings and the louder the clamor for live coverage.

Once the media is allowed into the courtroom, it’s a virtual Pandora’s Box.  Legal proceedings that were once relatively private have become sideshows due to the cameras in the courtroom.  As of this writing, it is still unlawful to record a telephone conversation without legal sanction.  Why, then, do we allow cameras and cell phones into the courtrooms when highly sensitive cases such as OJ’s and Casey Anthony’s are being tried?

In both cases, the suspects were acquitted of the charges of heinous murders.  This denouement led to a firestorm of public outrage against the acquitted parties, accompanied by death threats and the potential violence of lynch mobs. Can this type of action be equivalent to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded establishment?

Has investigative reporting interfered with our Criminal Justice system by preemption and the rush to form judgments?  Professor Alan Dershowitz’s comments on this matter were most telling.  In a recent interview, Dershowitz was asked if the judgment of Casey Anthony was correct. The Professor responded, “Legally, yes,”, thus implying that it was morally wrong.  But, that’s how our legal system now works.

Is the Criminal Justice system broken and in need of reform?  That is the question.  In our oh so politically correct society, the issue of legal versus moral seems to be unjust.  So, to correct our nomenclature, perhaps we should rename it The Legal Criminal Law System.

Beyond the Casey Anthony Case

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During World War II, there was a cliché used by servicemen wishing to resolve problems or disputes.  That phrase was, “Tell it to the Chaplain.”  In other words, get it off your chest and then move on with your life.  As a result, the Chaplain became the confidential keeper of secrets who would, according to God’s laws, advise the confessor as to the proper course of action.

This, however, is America.  And as per Constitutional Law, we “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”  In so doing, we have crafted a legal system considered to be the finest (read: most just) in all the world.  Its basic tenets are:

1.       Presumption of innocence until proven guilty

2.       The right for an accused to be judged by a jury of his or her peers

3.       The right to appeal a sentence

4.       Executive Order (a.k.a., a Presidential Pardon)

Despite the simplicity and apparent clarity of these tenets, our legal system is actually quite complex as well as expensive.  It costs to hire an attorney skilled in plying legal jargon, if not actual evidence, to prove innocence or guilt. (In this particular case, money does buy happiness and God help the poor!)  Rich or poor, during the past decade, America has witnessed crimes committed by notable and soon-to-be notable individuals: perpetrators who have received variable judgments, based upon the nature of their crimes, in an effort to protect our society against such persons.

I remember the Watergate trial, astounded not only as to how it was unfolding, but how it was unfolding before my very eyes: live, through the magic of television!  I suppose that Watergate set the precedent for mass media to be invited into our courtrooms as a means of keeping the public informed.  Thus, we the people had remote, live access to the O.J. Simpson trial and other notorious trials.  More and more, however, the media continued its carefully plotted intrusion into these cases.

Before mass media had intervened in such a manner, court cases were tried within the confines of a courtroom, in the jurisdiction of the locale in which the alleged crime was committed.  But, thanks to technology, the Court of Public Opinion has adulterated our legal system.  Complete with all the trappings of a media sideshow (is anyone else disturbed by the antics of Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell?), it  includes public panel discussions in which the pros and cons of as yet unresolved legal cases are bandied about. Personal opinions of the newscasters and their guests are tossed in to liven things up and increase viewership or readership of the media vehicles.  In the old days, these types of proceedings would have been known as “lynch mobs.”

Extensive media coverage of an ongoing trial does nothing to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused  party.   But that is not its purpose.  Its true intent is to improve media ratings and line the pockets of the media moguls and their investors.  Whether we’re watching or listening to the media, reading newspapers, Twittering opinions, or surfing the Internet for coverage, it all comes down to money.

If you doubt this, consider this all too prevalent scenario.  Have you ever watched or listened to a Presidential speech, a sporting event, or even a natural disaster unfolding on the news?  If so, did you notice that there was always a follow-up panel, sometimes on a separate, yet dovetailed program, to explain to you what you just witnessed — as if you’d lacked the common sense to interpret the information presented to you?  And if you have tuned in to these programs, what did you see and hear?  Answer: you saw and heard the news tainted by the personal opinions of the media and their guest speakers.

In days of old, when knights were bold, as the old saying goes, news reporters were constrained to report local and national events via specific criteria, which were:

1.       Where?

2.       Why?

3.       Who?

4.       When?

5.       What?

Reporters were not to stray from the bonds of these standards.  Reporters were told to keep their personal opinions to themselves; they were charged with a now-antiquated concept called “objective reporting.”

With this in mind, aside from the rich and the poor, there are, in my estimation, three classes of people:

1.       The religious

2.       The non-religious

3.       The hypocrites

Religious people tend to believe in and follow the commandants of God.  Non-religious people tend to adhere to manmade legal systems (civil and criminal legislation).  And hypocrites tend to bend both God’s Law and manmade laws to suit their own purposes.

Pressing ever forward into this new millennium, it’s strange how manmade laws are swiftly replacing God’s laws — even though our currency still bears the motto, “In God We Trust.”  However, when we are visited by war and strife, man turns to God for assistance, even if he does not truly believe in a being greater than himself.

Another World War II cliché was, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”  This more or less says it all about the media injecting its own personal views into evolving legal cases, for the sole intent of stirring up controversy and pumping up their profits.  “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord”, but “Cold hard cash is mine,” says an irresponsible and anything but objective media.

The moral of this story is, before you pass judgment on any person, a judgment based solely upon the media’s slanted coverage, consider these words found in the Bible:

“Let ye who are without sin, cast the first stone.”  And then move on with your life. 

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