Not decent

Last week Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, joined his Republican brethren in the House of Representatives and voted to raise the maximum fine for indecent radio and television broadcasts to $500,000. Right now the fine is $32,500. The bill Herger voted for would also allow the performer of the indecent material to be fined. (Has anybody seen that American Idol show? There is no end to the stream of less-than-decent performances going on there. Or what about Ashley Simpson’s pre-Super Bowl show? That certainly wasn’t very decent.) As it now stands the performers are first warned that they should clean up their acts, and if they don’t they are subject to an $11,000 fine. Senators, apparently, are not quite as bothered by bare midriffs, cleavage, slinky dancing and swear words as are their counterparts in the House. The Senate version of the bill would increase the fine only to $325,000 and keep in place the current warnings and fines for performers. The Senate hasn’t scheduled a vote on its version of the bill and eventually will have to hammer out a compromise with the House. The White House, by the way, supports the House proposal.

Why is it that we are we so worried about sex on TV but don’t seem to care at all about the violence? I watched an episode of the show Third Watch a few weeks ago, and it was so bad that it was actually good. (My dad explained to me when I was quite young the concept of high-camp humor—something that is intended to be taken seriously but is so pathetic, so embarrassingly off the mark that the irony makes it funny. Low camp, on the other hand, is something that is intended to be funny, like the Family Guy cartoon, but fails miserably.) The level of violence in Third Watch is second to none, even CSI. There’s blood and body parts galore, not to mention really bad actors reciting hokey dialogue. Why not fine the people responsible for this crap, which must be more damaging to our collective psyche than catching a partial glimpse of Janet Jackson’s breast?

Herger also voted recently with an overwhelming majority in the House to approve changing the rules in class-action lawsuits. The bill requires that suits involving plaintiffs from more than one state be filed in federal rather than state court. Opponents say the new rules will help corporations at the expense of consumers. Boy, it’s about time we looked out for corporations and clamped down on these pesky consumers. Also, a lot of class-action suits will probably never even see the light of day because the federal courts will not be able to handle the increased caseload. The Senate passed the bill a few weeks ago. Bush signed it into law last week.

I got some angry reactions to last week’s column about shooting mountain lions out of trees. One guy, a hunter, said doing so was necessary because the exploding lion population is decimating the deer population. He wrote, with a tinge of sadness, how he used to see a lot of deer road kill when he drove to Lake Almanor. Alas, he said, he no longer sees that comforting sight because deer populations have dwindled to the point that they are no longer running out in front of cars. Another guy said that, as the No. 1 predator in the state, it’s our duty to kill mountain lions, the No. 2 predator, to keep them “happy and healthy.” He’s got a point. We’ve altered nature so significantly with our unnatural way of life that I suppose we have to keep a hand in things, like hunting animals to try to maintain some sort of balance. The problem with game hunting, though, is that, rather than picking off the weak individuals as natural predators do, hunters go for the biggest and strongest, the ones that will look best mounted on the wall.

At the Feb. 15 Chico City Council meeting a proposal to build a Liquor Bank 3 at Fifth and Walnut streets was summarily turned down by the council. In truth, a retail outlet with the word “liquor” in its name has about as much chance for approval in Chico’s south campus neighborhood as a Wal-Mart does on Rodeo Drive.