New House

Last night as I was channel-surfing I saw an ad for the new season of House, which apparently will be starting up in September.  It came as a bit of a surprise, because I never know when new episodes will start for any shows anymore. 

(Don’t you miss the old days, when all shows started airing new episodes at about the same time kids went back to school?  You’d get the Fall Preview episode of TV Guide and be able to read short write-ups of all of the casting changes and programming changes for existing shows and descriptions of the new shows.  On any given night during the first week of new TV shows, you could watch a number of totally new shows and enjoy the return of old favorites.  It wasn’t pleasant going back to school, but at least the start-up of the TV season made it a bit more palatable.)

From the ad, it looks like House actually was institutionalized for mental treatment, which would quash my theory that the weird, dream-like ending of last season was just a Vicodin-induced hallucination.  The ad shows the good Dr. House with an institutional haircut and a grown-out beard that has replaced his trademark stubble, and we also see him haranguing Wilson from some rotary phone in the hallway of the psychiatric hospital.

I’m not sure what they are going to do with this plot line, but as I’ve noted before I like House, because it is one of the few consistently challenging shows on TV.  I hope that continues.

Dilemma ? How Can we Reverse this Trend ?

As of late I have been starting to wonder when radio and cable talk show hosts have gone too far with their comments. We can all recall Don Imus’s “nappy headed ho” comments that caused him to lose his job awhile back, but most talk show hosts say and do pretty much whatever they want without giving it a second thought.

Recently I heard that Rush Limbaugh made remarks comparing the Obama administration to the Nazis and Glenn Beck called President Obama a racist “with a deep seeded hatred for white people”.  As an average Joe I would hope that most of us know that neither of these statements are in fact true.

Heres an interesting article regarding the dilemma facing advertisers on some of the cable news channels. I’m in complete agreement with one of the spokespersons who said “we support vigorous debate, especially around policy issues that affect millions of Americans, but we expect it to be informed, inclusive and respectful”. Somewhere along the way we have lost these words, informed, inclusive and respectful when engaging in debate !

Limbaughs comment about Barney Frank, a gay representative, “spending most of his time living around Uranus”, is hardly respectful, in fact it is downright cruel. Yet nothing willl happen to Limbaugh and no apology will be forthcoming.

I’m glad to see that some advertisers are asking that their ads be pulled from Glenn’s show, but the article goes on to say that Beck had one of his biggest weeks ever when he made the Obama racist comment so why would we expect Beck to tone down his remarks ? In fact he will probably come up with even more outrageous remarks to drum up even more viewers.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers, but what can we do to reverse this trend ?

Obama: Be More Like LBJ

Yesterday’s New York Times featured an interesting piece comparing President Obama to Lyndon Johnson (“Could Afghanistan Become Obama’s Vietnam?”). The article speculated that Obama’s ambitious domestic programs could end up being derailed by an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, just as LBJ’s Great Society was by the Vietnam War. According to the article, President Obama himself has compared his situation to LBJ’s.



I doubt Afghanistan will ever become as big a pain in the ass for Obama as Vietnam was for LBJ, but the article made me think. I just read an excellent presidential biography of Lyndon Johnson by Doris Kearns Goodwin that led me to reconsider the former president. Despite his horrible handling of Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson was a brilliant, good-hearted man whom Obama could take a few lessons from.

Everyone’s talking about how Obama’s poll numbers are slipping as a result of the current Healthcare debate. What’s really hurting him, however, isn’t the debate itself but his mismanagement of it. President Obama has lost control over the national dialogue over healthcare reforms, despite calling numerous town halls and press conferences to dispel rumors and clarify his goals. He seems to have even less control over Congress, as Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats, and left-wing Democrats seek out their own policy goals, showing little willingness to compromise.

President Obama should consult the playbook of LBJ, perhaps the most skillful manipulator of Congress in American history. In her biography of LBJ, Goodwin notes that, contrary to popular belief,  his handling of Congress consisted of more than strong-arming. LBJ had a genius for reading people, discovering in the course of a conversation their fears and desires, and responding to them. To reward members of Congress for “good behavior” he promised them positions of importance, mustered up the support they felt they needed to vote a certain way (from newspaper editors, organizations, other members of Congress, etc.), or allowed them access to his personal popularity as president (which was, like Obama’s, originally quite considerable). To punish them, LBJ would withdraw his affection to make them feel isolated from his circle of power. Of course, strong-arming could be a component of LBJ’s “treatment”, but only when it was the most effective way, which LBJ somehow knew instinctively.

Instead of giving control of healthcare reform to Congress, I wish Obama would put himself in a position like LBJ. While LBJ’s legislation responded to the needs of Congress, it was always under his ultimate control. Like LBJ, Obama should also set clear objectives for his domestic programs, instead of adding or removing vital parts of legislation when passage appears uncertain, such as in the case of the public policy option in the current healthcare bill. Most of all, Obama should use his personal popularity to manipulate congressmen, while it still lasts.

Also like LBJ, President Obama should never forget the human element of his programs. While in action on the floor of Congress, LBJ might have seemed like a political machine, but behind all his machinations was a desire to spread the American dream to as many as possible. I’m sure Obama has the same desire, but he hasn’t been talking much about it lately. Obama needs to remind the American people that healthcare reform isn’t about politics or socialism or health insurance companies – it’s about spreading happiness, health and opportunity to as many Americans as possible.

Nap Time

One day last week at about 2:30 or 3 p.m., I seemed to hit the wall. I began to yawn and my eyes grew heavy. So, to combat the fatigue, I went out to the coffee station, poured some cold coffee into my cup, zapped it to fiery heat in the microwave oven, and slugged down some liquid caffeine. After guzzling a bit of the coffee, the combination of the hot beverage and the caffeine hit me, and I was off and running again.

Still, I thought: Wouldn’t it be nicer to take a nap, like in kindergarten? At Rankin Elementary School in Akron, Ohio, every kindergartener brought a towel to school, and after an hour or so of coloring, Play-Doh eating, playing with Lincoln Logs or building blocks, and whatever else we were supposed to be doing in kindergarten, Mrs. Radick would tell us to take our our towels, find a place on the floor to roll them out, and then lie down and take a nap.

At first, of course, it was impossible to sleep. You’d lie there, feeling a bit silly, looking at the other kids in the class, and maybe making funny faces. Mrs. Radick would walk among us, shushing us gently, and eventually you would close your eyes and magically fall asleep, even though it was the middle of the day and you were in the middle of a bunch of kids. After a while — how long were those naps, anyway? — the teacher would wake us up and we would be ready once more to tackle the punishing kindergarten curriculum, clear-headed and refreshed.

Several years I attended a CLE session that included a presentation on minimizing stress at work, and the speaker urged everyone to schedule, and take, a 15 to 30-minute “power nap” every day. The lawyers in attendance chuckled at such an outlandish notion — imagine, lawyers napping at work! — but deep down I felt the distant pull of the kindergarten towel.