Stop killing television

Remember back in the olden days when the number of TV stations could be counted on one hand? Well, neither can I because I’m not a hundred years old, but you get the idea. Regardless of whether or not we lived through that era, we still know it was easy to gauge what people were watching on the tube back then. There were only a few channels to watch and only one way to watch them.

Now, we have computers and tablets and iPhones – oh, and these weird new watches that can make phone calls and do your laundry, or whatever. Yet, for some God-awful reason, network TV is still measuring who watches what in essentially the same way it did back when most of this technology didn’t exist.

It’d be like public opinion firms choosing not to survey cell phone users and only including land-liners. They would be leaving out a whole group of people that is growing in size just because they didn’t adapt to changing technologies. The omitted group, of course, would be much younger than the rest of the population. Polling results, I suspect, would be less accurate and more conservative-leaning.

In the same way, it’s almost a given that most folks who are viewing content on the internet skew younger than those who primarily watch television. Not accounting for those people leads to television programming that is watered down in order to appeal to a broad, but still shrinking number of people.

It’s why good shows get canceled and bad shows get renewed.

Let’s call this the Jay Leno effect – the ratings are great, but only because it’s easy to understand and appeals to the masses. And, let’s face it: people like being able to sit in front their televisions drooling into a cup while the flashing screen makes them feel smarter.

You think “The Big Bang Theory” is intelligent and revolutionary TV? False. It’s just another formulaic network sitcom that follows the same boring rules, so it can appeal broadly and win big in the ratings game. And, kudos to them, it’s a ratings powerhouse.

The same goes for those mind-numbing procedural dramas where a variation of the same crime is committed and solved all within an hour. Spoiler alert: someone will be killed, raped, or kidnapped in the first five minutes; law enforcement will then interrogate ten different street vendors or school janitors to get a lead; and they will catch that scum just when you thought this episode might end differently than the previous 40 million.

High ratings do not equal quality programming. In fact, a lot of the time it’s the opposite that’s true.

Think about it: how can a show possibly appeal to both 20-somethings and their grandmas? It has to be beaten to a pulp, have the life sucked out of it, and basically tell people when to laugh or be scared.

As a result, we are seeing a younger generation of people – a population that is growing – avoid network television and find their entertainment elsewhere. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, as well cable channels like AMC or A&E, are offering shows that have a freaking creative pulse and – gasp – make people use their brains once in a while.

The archaic Nielsen rating system still seems to be the Bible of network television. But it doesn’t foster creativity and craft good programming – it deters it by virtually ignoring technological changes and dismissing the demands of those who fall under their outdated radar.

Sure, this is great for consumers, myself included, who have fallen in love with Netflix and other streaming services that allow us to spend endless hours binge-watching our new favorite shows. But it’s killing network television as we once knew it.

And there’s something a little bit sad about that.

Yes, Ted Cruz is eligible to run for president – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t laugh about it

Ever since Barack Obama hit the political scene and rose to the top of American politics, his harshest – and most ignorant – critics have alleged that he was born in Kenya, thus making him an illegitimate president. For awhile, the extreme right wing of American politics made their living off this birther paranoia.

“We just need to see the long-form birth certificate,” they would say, in an attempt to guise the whole exercise as a noble search for the truth – we all know what it was really about.

With Obama, it was pretty simple: he was born in Hawaii. That makes him a natural-born citizen. Period.

In the case of Ted Cruz (R-Texas), it’s a little bit different because he’s Canadian-born – but that doesn’t mean he is ineligible to run for president.

Eleanor Darragh, Cruz’s mother, was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware (Biden country!). By that fact alone, it doesn’t really matter where Ted Cruz was born, so long as his American mother gave birth to him.

According to a solid analysis by Vox, “Cruz would be born an American despite having only one US citizen parent as long as that parent — his mother — had physically lived in the United States for at least 10 years and five of those years had been after her 14th birthday.”

Case closed.

This is not to say that Ted Cruz should be president; he most certainly should not. But, to liberals – and Donald Trump, because of course – seriously asserting that Cruz is ineligible for the presidency: you’re wrong. He does, indeed, meet the constitutional requirements.

But that doesn’t mean we have to stop joking about it.

For more information on Ted Cruz and his candidacy, please visit: or

You’ll thank me later for the laughs.

Yes, we should abolish the death penalty

Issues like gun regulations, marriage equality, and a woman’s right to choose have always been simple – at least from my perspective. Common sense rules for firearms, equal rights for all Americans, and allowing a woman to make her own health care decisions are all no-brainers.

What has not been such a no-brainer is the question of whether we, as a civilized society, should allow the practice of putting people to death as punishment for a crime.

As a human being with emotions, I look at a man who has just killed another person – especially a child – and I am inclined to wish awful things on that man. It’s common for people to react that way under such circumstances.

“They should do the same thing to him as punishment – an eye for an eye,” you’ll often hear.

These reactions are especially common after tragedies, like the Boston bombings that took place in 2013. Ever since that tragedy – and leading up to the trial that is taking place now –  I have heard family and friends say things like, “Just put [Dzhokhar Tsarnaev] in a room and blow him up!”

The question is not how we humans react to violent acts – we all instinctively want harsh, sometimes deadly, punishments for murderers. But, really, it’s whether or not our judicial system and society as a whole should react in the same way.

In “Ides of March”, a political thriller, George Clooney – playing a presidential candidate – was asked in a debate whether he would support the death penalty for a killer if his wife was the victim.

Clooney’s character responded by saying he would still oppose the death penalty, but he would personally seek revenge on his wife’s killer. When the moderator asked why society should not be allowed to do that, he responded by saying, “Because society has to be better than the individual. If I were to do that (kill someone) I would be wrong.”

As humans, we react the way any compassionate human does to such terrible acts: with anger, disgust and, sometimes, an urge to seek revenge. But our society must be better than that. In the case of the Boston bomber, putting the perpetrator in a room and blowing him up, or simply killing him, would make us no better than he is.

At the end of the day, killing a person to show that killing is wrong doesn’t make much sense. We should not punish evil acts by committing the same act in response. We should instead recognize that, as Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”

“But I don’t want my tax money to pay for a criminal to stay alive in prison and have warm meals everyday,” is another common trope among the pro-death penalty crowd.

This is an easy myth to buy into, but it is absolutely false that it costs more money to sentence a criminal to life without parole than it does to sentence him/her to death.

A recent study in Colorado showed that death penalty cases take six times longer to resolve than life-without-parole cases. That drawn-out process adds up to millions of extra dollars.

In California, another study showed that the cost of the death penalty over the last three decades is over $4.5 billion. If the governor was to commute the sentences of everyone on death row to life without parole, it would save $170 million per year.

And murder rates in states without the death penalty are consistently lower than states who still have it.

It’s morally questionable, fiscally irresponsible, and it doesn’t reduce crime rates.

Most of the world’s top democracies no longer use the death penalty. Eighteen of our own states have officially abolished it. It’s time for the remaining states to follow suit and join the rest of the civilized world in eliminating this practice.

Yes, Texas, even you.

2016 Republican campaign slogan


I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed today and stumbled across this picture of a Joel Osteen tweet from last November.

I instantly thought of just how appropriate this would be as a campaign slogan for the 2016 Republican nominee for president.

The economy is clearly improving with increased employment, shrinking deficits, and a booming stock market – that’s what the facts tell us. Republicans say, no, it’s actually gotten worse under President Obama.

Don’t believe the facts, they say.

The globe is clearly becoming warmer and our climate is most certainly changing – that’s what scientific data says, at least. Republicans say it’s lie. One GOP senator – James Inhofe of Oklahoma – even threw a snowball on the Senate floor in an attempt to prove just how big a hoax the whole thing is.

Sen. Inhofe, by the way, is chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment. Not kidding.

The tragedy in Benghazi was not a scandal – even the GOP’s own committee report showed no wrongdoing. But, nope, many Republicans still continue to beat the Benghazi drum.

Don’t believe our own report, the GOP says.

The Affordable Care Act is a job killer. Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim. Welfare recipients are freeloaders. Tax cuts for the wealthy help grow the economy. Voter fraud is rampant. Corporations are people. Guns make us safer. Same-sex marriage destroys the sanctity of marriage. Fox News is fair and balanced.

Proven myths – all of them.

But screw the facts and damn the truth. This is their version of reality and they’re stickin’ to it.

Heck, 2016 presidential hopeful and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is even trying to remove the words “search for truth” from the University of Wisconsin’s mission. Way to own it, governor.

Joel Osteen simply needs to change one letter of his tweet in order for it to be ready for Republicans next year:

“The facts may tell you one thing. But, (the) GOP is not limited by the facts. Choose faith in spite of the facts.”

The Republican Party is flirting with treason

Back in 2003, when George W. Bush and company were leading this country into arguably the most misguided war in American history, you were called a traitor if you so much as publicly questioned the commander-in-chief of the United States.

“Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” was a common refrain from the Bush White House.

Fast-forward to the Obama presidency and not only does the opposing political party question the patriotism and legitimacy of the President of the United States on a near-daily basis, but they have now decided to undermine the foreign policy and national security of the entire country in order to further flex their muscle of hatred for this twice-elected president.

With these folks, hatred of Barack Obama outweighs love of country. That is no longer an opinion, but a simple fact with ample supportive evidence.

Since Obama took office, we’ve seen this play out on all kinds of issues, from helping the economy recover from the Great Recession to providing health benefits to 9/11 first-responders – every step of the way, Republicans in Congress sought to sabotage those efforts.

On the serious matter of national security, the GOP has now decided to employ that same strategy.

Last week, the Republican-controlled Congress went behind the back of the White House to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech that did nothing but assail President Obama’s – and other world leaders’ – efforts to prevent Iran from creating or obtaining a nuclear weapon.

There was no alternative offered by Israel’s Prime Minister. In fact, he offered nothing but the same fear mongering he’s been spewing for years. He fit right in with the GOP-led Congress.

Keep in mind, Netanyahu is the same guy who was a cheerleader for the Iraq War, saying in 2002, “I guarantee you that [invading Iraq] will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.”

How did that work out again?

This week, Republicans have doubled down on undermining U.S. foreign policy and decided to take their message straight to the Iranian government in a letter signed by 47 Republican senators.

The letter essentially tells leaders of Iran that any deal coming from the nuclear talks with the United States and five other world super powers is meaningless and can be undone by a Republican president or Congress. The GOP senators who signed the letter hope it will convince Iran to think twice and back out of any potential agreement.

By reaching out to a foreign government in an attempt to derail these negotiations, Republicans are quite literally flirting with treason.

According to the text of the Logan Act of 1799, “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

In addition to the Logan Act, a 1936 Supreme Court decision – U.S. v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. – said: “The President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation, the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it.”

Federal law and historical precedent are pretty clear on this – meddling in international diplomacy is wrong, regardless of how passionately Republicans despise Barack Obama.

As former Secretary Hillary Clinton pointed out today, “Either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander-in-chief in the midst of high-stakes international diplomacy. Either answer does discredit to the letter’s signatories.”

Below are the patriotic men and women who hate their president more than they love their country:


What it means to love America: Barack Obama in Selma, 50 years later


“Fellow marchers, so much has changed in fifty years. We’ve endured war, and fashioned peace. We’ve seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives, and take for granted convenience our parents might scarcely imagine. But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship, that willingness of a 26-year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five, to decide they loved this country so much that they’d risk everything to realize its promise.

“That’s what it means to love America. That’s what it means to believe in America. That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional.

“…That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for it. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing; we are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit.”

Black, white, young, old, Democratic or Republican – sometimes there is a speech given by a political figure that all Americans should watch.

This is one of them.