Monday, October 28, 2013

Start TV Programs On The Hour

There was a time when television programs commenced exactly on the hour or half-hour.  You could count on it.  You could take care of necessaries before your favorite program began.  No longer.

Nowadays it appears that many TV programs start two minutes or one minute before the hour.  That’s crazy.  It’s ridiculous.  And why are the networks doing this to us?

Perhaps there are articles reviewing this practice.  I haven’t found them.  Then again, I haven’t looked for them.  I assume the reason for this change is “competition.”  The networks have decided that providing a brief preview to the next program as a teaser won’t suffice.  Instead, they have to launch the next program a minute before the hour, presumably a minute before their competition, until their competitors decide to match that strategy.

Stop this madness, Networks!  Yes, you.  You seem to be the main offenders although I’ve found this practice rampant on cable channels, such as MsNBC, of late.

Go back to the certainty of starting programs on the hour or half hour.  Stop starting programs a minute or even two minutes before the hour.  Give us a chance to refresh between programs without having to worry that we’ve missed the first minute or two, often the most important in melodramas.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gridlock, Shutdown, Paralysis

As the shutdown enters another week I have no difficulty placing blame entirely on the Republicans.  I am not saying that Democrats are angels or that one can't reach back in history and find some Democratic legislative action that didn't adhere to the "principles" Democrats enunciate today.  But this obsessive preoccupation with the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) is destructive, perhaps not to the Republican Party but to the nation.  It is true that only Democrats voted for the legislation when it passed, but even then that was in large measure because Republicans really didn't want to negotiate over a bill that they would then seemingly support.  Even at that point Republicans were rejecting Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich principles about individual responsibility and an individual mandate and have continued to do so.  Obama made deals with the medical profession, the insurance industry and even with the pharmaceutical industry in trying to craft a law that would pass.  He accommodated conservative elements in the Democratic Party as well to achieve the necessary majority vote.  ACA is not some socialist dream.  It is not a take over of medical care by the government.  In fact, Obama chose not to embrace a single payer system along the lines of Medicare, which would have involved a greater governmental involvement.  If anything,  ACA is a boon to private enterprise as millions of Americans will now purchase insurance in the marketplace.

Instead of working with Obama to craft legislation in part reflecting their views, instead of trying to effectuate meaningful and helpful changes to ACA as questions and concerns over parts of the law have emerged, Republicans have been dead set on repealing it.  They challenged the constitutionality of the individual mandate, taking their claim to the U.S. Supreme Court.  But, the High Court upheld the law.  In the last several years, the House, led by Tea Party Republicans, has voted at least 42 times to repeal the law, an effort dead in its tracks given Democratic control of the Senate and the White House.  Now the Republican Party has shut down major parts of the Federal Government in an effort to force the Democrats in Congress to rescind ACA, something Obama will not accept.

Holding the country hostage by first threatening to shut and now shutting down the Federal Government in an attempt to compel the other Party to vote to rescind existing legislation is simply not appropriate.  Let the Republicans capture control of the Senate and, if also needed, the White House, something they claim they can do given the public’s alleged distaste for the ACA.  Or negotiate over other legislation desired by Democrats.  But shutting down the Government to overturn legislation lawfully enacted and upheld by the Supreme Court is, indeed, nothing but hostage taking.  The President’s refusal to negotiate in this situation is reasonable.

In a little over a week it will be necessary for the Congress to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a Government default on obligations Congress has already incurred.  Again Republicans wish to hold this requirement hostage in exchange for Democratic concessions over the ACA and/or the extent of America’s debt and deficit spending.  The Republicans took this same approach previously and gained concessions from Obama as well as caused a downgrading of America’s credit rating, meaning that the cost of federal borrowing increased.

President Obama has refused to negotiate over an increase in the debt ceiling this time, claiming that Congress has already incurred the obligations necessitating an increase in the ceiling, and that America should not have to experience this constant brinkmanship in its financial affairs.  Speaker John Boehner has said he won't undermine America's credit but he and his Republicans seem eager to push Obama toward further concessions in order to approve an increase in the debt ceiling.  Obama claims that he is willing to negotiate on any topic, but not in exchange for keeping the Government open or funding America’s current obligations.  There has been talk again about a “grand bargain” under which Obama might agree to some changes in entitlements in exchange for an increase in the debt ceiling and other Republican concessions.  But Obama has made clear that his “grand bargain” includes further tax increases and reforms, something Tea Party Republicans adamantly oppose.

Is there any end in sight to this continuing stalemate?  A grand bargain?  Chances of that seem slight.  Republicans are likely to retain a majority in the House even if more voters support Democratic candidates than Republicans.  This reflects the structure of American government, gerrymandered districts, and population concentrations.  Any chance of a Republican takeover of the Senate in the 2014 elections?  That is a possibility although the current shutdown may hurt GOP chances.  How about a Republican sweep of Congress and the Presidency by 2016?  There is certainly a chance that by then the public will want a change in parties in the White House.  That happened in 1992, again in 2000, and in 2008.  But the nation’s demographics are in flux, Republicans have yet to develop an appeal toward Hispanics, and the cultural divide particularly between the Tea Party Republicans and much of the rest of the country remains vast.

This stalemate over Government funding and the debt ceiling is not healthy for this country.  I share the President’s perspective that these two issues should not be held hostage by Republicans as a way to extract concessions on other policy issues.

Policy decisions need to be made to address America’s demographic changes, immigration issues, deterioration in infrastructure, exploding cost of entitlements, tepid economic growth.  But at the moment gridlock in Washington seems to preclude any movement on these issues.  Negotiation and compromise on these specific policy issues and others are needed.  But currently compromise appears to be a dirty word, particularly to Tea Party true believers.  Fissures in the Republican Party further reflect the extremism of the GOP right wing.  Answers to resolving this situation seem few and far between.  There is paralysis in Washington.  Exceptional leadership is necessary but is not being shown by either Party or by President Obama.  One can hope.