Five for Fixing, Part I…..

Every now and then I will offer a list of five policies, trends, inventions, phenomena or general ways of the world that require anything from a slight tweak to a major overhaul.  It will be my version of Peter Griffin’s “You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?” segment.  I will not rank them.  Some will be more serious than others.  For some I will offer my own recommendation for how to fix the problem, or at least how to begin the process.  For others, I will just shake my head and pray.  Feel free to comment, or add your own ideas to the discussion.

So here are my first five for fixing, in no particular order:

Driving in the left lane of a multi-lane road or highway needs to be policed.  For crying out loud, left-lane protocol needs to be required learning to gain a license to operate a vehicle in this country.  But more importantly, tickets need to be given to drivers that fail to adhere to it – and driver’s education courses should be required to be retaken if one receives a second citation for left-lane negligence.  The left lane of any road is for passing, and for making a left turn if necessary – period.  If there are three or more lanes, the policy still holds true, and any driver in the left-most lane that is not passing cars to their right (or gaining on them rapidly to imminently pass) must move over one lane to the right.  I know cops already need more money than they collect from speeding and other traffic violations, as is evidenced by the ridiculous parking ticket policies of most urban and even suburban communities, but imagine the increase of police revenues if this policy were to be enforced.   And it really needs to be.

The party system in American (and presumably global) politics needs to be eliminated.  I find it incredibly hypocritical when people criticize the BCS in college football but fail to recognize that it was basically created using the same philosophy that perpetuates Big Elephant and Donkey – our capitalist country (like the BCS) will continually screw the little guy, the average voter, the unaffiliated, and the voiceless in order to feed the big, well-oiled machine that pays its bills, and is willing to overlook corruption, cheating, graft, disparities, and the general undercurrent of “the rich get richer at the expense of the poor,” creating a situation where the only true winners are those well-heeled few with enough resources to influence, control and perpetuate the parties themselves.

I have no problem with capitalism, but I have a huge problem with a two-party system founded on archaic principles, backed by ridiculous extremists and so firmly entrenched in our political landscape that it is virtually impossible for a candidate who subscribes to intelligent policies and platforms inherent to both schools, or even ideas outside the scope of either school to gain the requisite backing and political foothold to win a meaningful American election.

In college football, the BCS system creates a scenario where teams that do not play for the “rich, powerful” BCS conferences that run the system similarly have the odds stacked firmly against them, and therefore, the 2008 Utah Utes, who convincingly dismantled the BCS darling Alabama Crimson Tide (who won the national title just one year later), not only were unfairly kept out of the BCS Championship game, but never really had a legitimate shot, all things being equal, of getting there in the first place.

Maybe a rich and powerful sports fanatic, like Mark Cuban, will one day dislodge the powers that be in college football and create a playoff system that includes all schools equally and fairly, but even so, I have far less faith that the same will ever be done to supplant the American Two-Party Political system.  But one can hope.

Our once-great nation has been in slow denouement ever since the Cold War ended.  We need a swift kick in the ass in many areas, including our banking and small business lending practices, social security and Medicare reform and redefining the role of our military; and some radical changes in many others, such as education, health care, tort reform and gay rights, to name a few.  These changes cannot and will not ever be diagrammed and effected unless the party lines are removed and our political machine joins together to work for the common good.  The current parties and their respective casts of heavyweights spend countless dollars and hours squabbling with one another, mudslinging and looking for the optimal opportunity to pin the latest scandal on their opponents in order to wrestle or maintain majority control of their respective branch of government, be it at the Federal, State or even Local level.  Red Tape grows thicker and longer, and momentum in either direction becomes harder and harder to slow, let alone reverse.

A place to start would be a universal elimination of parties in American Politics.  Then significant campaign reform, including the outlaw of negative campaign ads.  Platforms and issues should define our candidates and their campaigns.  Nothing else.

The sizes of cups and containers available to consumers for soda, French fries and popcorn at fast food restaurants, convenience stores and especially movie theaters need to be regulated.  The government has already begun to regulate the levels of saturated fat and healthy food options restaurants are required to utilize and offer its customers.  The next step is a logical one.  As the most obscenely obese nation in the world, there is no way a child should be able to walk into a movie theater to see Toy Story and buy a soft drink that is larger than a fire hydrant (and that is the small!)  Also, children should be limited to one drink – forget free refills unless used for juice or water.  This second part may be difficult to enforce, but our children live in a country where it is “normal” to glut oneself in one sitting with enough high fructose corn syrup and carcinogenic diet drinks to fill a bath tub.  We are all going to have to pay for the ramifications of this ridiculous and unhealthy phenomenon.  Make it stop.

The way airplanes are boarded needs an overhaul.  I understand first class pays extra, so they can board first if they want, but all planes must be designed so that the door is behind first class seating, so that any first class passengers boarding a plane early do not interfere with a new policy:  STRICT Rear-first boarding.  Passengers should be called by rows, beginning with the back three, then moving forward – there should never be people shimmying into their 5th row seats while 300 people wait for them to place all of the crap in the overhead compartments, and then tend to their four infant children who have taken to a game of tag while their overwhelmed parents are distracted by all the awful game of Tetris that is cramming a too-wide bag into a narrow slot above.

I have no problem with handicapped people and those with small children sitting up front, but they should wait to sit.  I am pretty sure the handicapped and small children do not need any more time than they will already have being cooped up in an airplane coach class seat.  The less time on a plane, the better for them, and all of us really.  And Southwest Air needs to change things too – Socialist airline rules aren’t the worst thing I ever heard of, but let the heavy lifting happen organically online prior to printing everyone’s boarding pass.  The winner of seat A1 gets 1st pick of seat, and so on, on the seating chart prior to printing out the boarding pass.  If you fail to choose your seat ahead of time, you will be seated last, after all those who did choose online are seated.  Then we wouldn’t run into the awful situation of every friggin’ aisle seat taken through the middle of the plane, then back filling the window seats through mid-plane, then aisle and window seats in the rear of the plane and finally the middle seats, starting in the front of the plane.  As incredibly inefficient as the boarding process is in general, it is even worse on Southwest.  Overall, airline boarding creates ridiculous amounts of wasted time, undue stress for everyone, including airline employees and generally makes humans look foolish.  Aren’t foresight and the ability to think and plan supposedly a few of the differentiating traits of mankind?  Every time I find myself involved in the boarding process of a commercial plane, I cannot believe the general disorganization, chaos and stress-filled bullshit that goes on.  I guarantee that a more-efficient boarding system outlined above combined with a first class door redesign will add hours of time back onto the lives of even infrequent travelers, and a great deal more to frequent flyers and airline employees.

DVR recordings that miss or cut-off the end or beginning of shows.  I know, I know.  The ad lobby controls the rules because they are the ones that drive programming budgets.  But fuck the ad lobby.  If people are DVRing their favorite shows and sporting events, they are doing so because of one or more of four primary reasons:

1)      They are busy or otherwise engaged and do not have time/are not able to watch television during the timeslot they are recording;

2)      The program is on at some ungodly hour and sleep is more important;

3)      There is another program or sporting event on simultaneously that they would prefer to watch; and/or,

4)      They are home, really want to watch the show ASAP, but do not want to be burdened by the stupid, repetitive and often insulting commercials that take up 1/3 of every television hour, so they take a shower, do a chore or two around the house, go to the gym, check their emails, grab a bite to eat, have some sex or do anything other than watch the show they are recording in order to generate enough lead time to fast forward through the commercials as they watch the show.

Any way you look at it, if someone is recording a show, they do not want to be burdened by the ads, unless maybe they recorded the Super Bowl.  So ad companies need to adapt.  They already cover every inch of every stadium and arena, including the name of said arena, with ad space – so sports are covered.  And product placement has become so commonplace that it is difficult to watch anything without seeing ten easily identifiable products in each scene.

I know we all can adjust our recordings to capture an extra minute or two before and after a time slot.  But why should WE have to do that?  It should be an auto-feature on every cable company DVR.  Make it happen.

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