Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saving American Idol

Is anyone else bored with American Idol? This season has been a total snoozefest regardless of which David wins. I have read that overall ratings are down and that the producers are worried about the show's long term future. Here are some suggested changes to improve the show:

Guest Judges: They desperately need some new blood and since the current judges are all under contract they are stuck with them for a while. After several years we all know exactly how each judge is going to respond. The next best thing to replacing them is to bring in guest judges. These could be famous musicians, actors, sports stars or even have a contest to allow a fan to be a judge one week.

Half hour result shows: This is my biggest pet peeve with the show. They drag out the results show and it is insufferable to watch. I usually end up changing the channel intending to get back just in time to see who is voted off but get engrossed in another program and miss it.

Limit the number of votes: They should really limit the number of times someone can vote. Otherwise you end up with a gaggle of 10 year old girls voting 100 times each and the results skewed toward a small targeted audience. If one vote per person is good enough for democracy it should be good enough for American Idol.

Announce voting results: They should reveal the number of votes for each and every contestant every week. This would give more credibility to the results and also allow fans to see how their particular favorite was doing week to week.

Allow voters to pick themes: The worst part of this season was watching back to back Beatles themes. It was a disaster brought on by a lack of imagination when it comes to picking themes. The themes also tend to favor one singer over another and I've always thought this was how they manipulate the results. The public would do a much better job picking fair, creative themes.

Allow voters to pick specific songs instead of producers: I found it strange that the producers picked lousy songs for all three contestants last week. It's like they hadn't listened to any of them sing before. Surely the fans have a favorite song they want their contestant to sing. Have them vote on line for it.

Exemption: Give each of the 12 one exemption to use. They would have to decide to use it before the voting started. This would protect contestants who have one bad week or who struggle with a particular theme. It might also lead to more unexpected results.

These are just some ideas to help keep the show from jumping the shark. Hopefully, the producers read this blog and will take my advice.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Republican Brand, part two

I just read an interesting article by David Brooks, who by the way is becoming my favorite columnist, that discussed how the conservative party is redefining themselves in England. This is a timely article as Republicans here at home are trying to define the "Republican Brand". I am hopeful that we will follow their example and avoid the decades in the political wilderness they had to endure before realizing it was time to make changes.

They are onto something as they are moving away from focusing on the role of government and instead emphasizing community and quality of life issues. This is a brilliant strategic shift as it helps connect the dots between political theory and real life solutions that people want. Let's face it, most people could care less about the size and scope of government so long as it's competent and their community is thriving. We need to reexamine our policies in light of how well they provide services and how they impact people's quality of life.

For instance, it is not enough to say government should stay out of health care simply because we don't like big government. Instead we have to offer actual solutions that make health care more accessible and affordable. Instead of focusing on hot button social issues like gay rights and gun rights, we need to pay more attention to improving government services like transportation, our schools and the corrections system. Now ,there is a lot of room to debate how to improve these services but these areas should be our priorities.

It's not enough to be against government and for free market anymore. In some cases this approach works but not all the time. As a party we need to offer real solutions to improve the quality of life in our communities. These solutions might come from the free market but they also might include more government to fill in the gaps left behind by the market place. Without taking this approach, we will continue to lose elections and more importantly the public's confidence.

The Republican Brand, part one

It is obvious that this year is going to be a bad year for Republicans up and down the ticket. The overwhelming frustration and fatigue with Bush coupled with the war, a faltering economy and high gas prices has led to the perfect storm against Republicans.

The response to this problem from our party leaders is that we have to be true to the "Republican brand". This message was especially strong last year during the budget debate here in Michigan. This argument believes that the voting public wants a clear choice between the parties and that by allowing moderation in the party we are watering down our brand, making it more difficult for voters to understand what we believe in.

Our party leaders could not be more wrong. The fact is that most voters understand the Republican brand too well and they are resoundingly rejecting it. Anybody who doesn't know what Republicans stand for is either an idiot or not interested in politics. The problem isn't that we are ideological impure and therefore confusing to voters but rather that we are too tied to the same tired dogma of blindly cutting taxes and focusing almost exclusively on being against abortion and gay marriage. If that's the brand the party wants to continue selling, good luck because the people are not buying it. In fact, by pushing out the moderate voices of the party we are shrinking instead of expanding the party.

It's not only happening here in Michigan but in Minnesota as well. A group of 6 Republican legislators voted to override a veto of the gas tax increase. The money raised by that gas tax is going to fix Minnesota's infrastructure including roads and bridges. As you may recall, it was a bridge in Minnesota that collapsed last year killing 13 people. One could make a solid policy argument that raising the gas tax is a good idea. Yet, these lawmakers are now being targeted in Republican primaries by anti-tax candidates and the Republican party is supporting the challengers. To quote one Republican from Minnesota "What's even more dangerous than having Democrats is having Republicans that you can't count on." This type of thinking is going to kill the Republicans in November.

I had hoped that the defeat in 2006 would serve as a lesson to the party that we were headed down the wrong track. But apparently it will take additional losses to wake up our party leaders or better yet get new leaders in place.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Audacity of Hopelessness

I don't know about you but I am enjoying watching the Democratic primary continue to unfold. I almost laughed out loud when I read that party insiders are hoping that Clinton will quietly drop out and endorse Obama. These same people must have never met her as they would otherwise realize that she is never going to drop out prematurely. One thing that Republicans learned all too well during the nineties is that the Clintons are anything but quitters. We also learned that they do not care about the greater good of their party but are merely infatuated with their own political agenda. I suspect the Obama people recognize this which is why she will never be the VP nominee.

My guess is that even when all the votes are cast on June 3rd, Clinton will still have a strategy in place to steal the nomination. She will keep changing the bar by which to measure victory until she arrives at some "plausible" scenario that has her winning. She still has Florida and Michigan as a last resort because I don't see how the party cannot seat their delegates without risking alienation in those states. It will be interesting to see just long she can continue before she faces a significant backlash from her own supporters. Only when her supporters and donors say enough is enough will she drop out. And maybe not even then. Regardless, it is fun to watch and I hope it continues all summer long.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

More Stupidity

Unfortunately the BCS will be with us for a few more embarrassing years. The conference commissioners had an opportunity to bring respectability and common sense to college football's post season but apparently they are more interested in protecting their conferences and their paychecks. There was an offer on the table to create a "plus 1" game after the bowls that would pit the top two teams together for a true national championship. But they rejected this watered down playoff because it would take away from the regular season. So settling the championship on the field of play instead of in the polls take away from the regular season? What about every other sport? Does this mean we should stop playing the final four or even all the football playoffs in Division 1a? Are they admitting that the regular season means nothing in those sports? And what about the league championship games for the SEC, Big 12 and ACC? Don't they take away from the regular season champion? Oh wait, those games make lots of money for the conferences so they justify taking away from the regular season. I am so sick and tired of the sanctimonious jackasses running college football. All other sports resolve their championship on the field of play but for some reason they still believe they know better. Basically by sticking with the BCS they are saying "screw you" to the 95 percent of us fans that support a playoff. Well right back at you!

Do they think we are stupid?

I just read a humorous article on global warming. The only problem is that it was supposed to be serious. According to some scientists, America is set to experience colder temperatures over the next decade due to ocean currents. But they warn us not to let this dissuade us from believing in global warming. Just how stupid do they think the public is? I am not a scientist but I can see through the tired propaganda of the global warming community. Their logic is if it gets warmer it's global warming and if it gets colder it's still global warming. Give me a break. Finally, by admitting that water currents effect temperature they undercut their arguments that so called "climate change" is determined by human activity.